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By Caroline Downs
Members of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition noted the overwhelming support shown across the state for Measure 4 when they met a week after the general election on November 13th.
The new law prohibiting smoking in all public businesses and venues was approved by a margin of 66.67 to 33.33 percent. “It passed in every single county,” said Holly Brekhus, First District Health Unit Tobacco Prevention Coordinator.
In fact, the measure passed Ward County with 63.40 percent voter approval. At the Kenmare precinct, voters favored the measure by a margin of 422 to 303 votes, or 58.21 percent approval.
In the Berthold precinct, 61.68 percent of the voters approved the measure, with the votes tallied at 309 for compared to 192 against the smoke-free law.
“I’ve heard both positive and negative comments from people,” said Stacey Schoemer, FDHU public health nurse in Burke County, “but I think that in the long run everyone will see this as a good thing for our state.”
“I’m thinking about all the positive health benefits for everyone,” added Barb Scherbenske.
Melissa Burud, FDHU public health nurse in Kenmare, said she’d heard from several smokers who spoke in favor of the law. “They think it’s a common courtesy not to smoke around other people,” she said. “They say it’s not that big of a deal that more areas are smoke-free.”
Burud believed the new law could have long-range benefits for current smokers. “I hope the law provides people with the motivation to look at their own smoking habits and change them,” she said.
ND should be notified
of law by November 26
Brekhus provided Coalition members with information from the BreatheND organization about implementing the new law, which goes into effect December 6, 2012.
According to BreatheND, the Center for Tobacco Prevention and Control Policy in North Dakota has volunteered to take the lead in communicating changes and implementation to the general public and North Dakota businesses, in cooperation with the state health department.
To that end, a new page was established at the www.breathend.com website on Monday with details about the law and to explain how violations of the new law should be reported. Radio ads with information about the new law started playing Monday, and newspaper ads will be running the following week.
By November 26th, all North Dakota businesses should receive a packet of information including a copy of the law, answers to frequently asked questions about the law, and PDF files that can be accessed online and downloaded to make signs to hang in any affected businesses.
Other information will be provided, such as tips about implementing the law in a business by removing ashtrays, educating employees, etc., and suggestions about reporting violations to local law enforcement officers.
BreatheND also wants the public to be aware of specific aspects of the new smoke-free law. As of December 6th, smoking will be prohibited in all bars, including private clubs; hotels and motels; truck stops; workplace vehicles; all health care facilities, including long-term and assisted living centers and licensed adult day care facilities; tobacco establishments; and indoor and outdoor sports arenas.
In addition, the law prohibits smoking within 20 feet of any doorway, window or air intake of an indoor public place or business, and in any enclosed area that has 33 percent or more of its perimeter enclosed by walls, windows or doorways.
The new law prohibits the use of e-cigarettes. Smoke-free signs are required to be posted at the entrances and inside all public places and places of employment, in public transportation vehicles and workplace vehicles, and at indoor and outdoor sporting arenas.
BreatheND encourages all individuals and business owners with questions about the new law and requirements for compliance to review the information at www.breathnd.com. “There will be a link there to the law itself,” said Brekhus, “so people can access the law.”
She noted no one intends to start prosecuting businesses in violation of the law immediately after the implementation date of December 6th. “They’re trying to be business-friendly about this,” she said, “and giving them the opportunity to correct the problems before the other penalties are implemented.”
Law enforcement agencies across the state will receive similar information about the law. According to the Center for Tobacco Prevention, complaints should be reported to local law enforcement officers, who will follow up with the local public health unit. County sheriff’s departments and the State’s Attorneys’ General offices may get involved as well, especially when penalties need to be imposed.
Brekhus emphasized details about coordinating enforcement of the new smoke-free law with First District Health Unit were still in development. Burud and Schoemer noted they would be receiving information about the new law at the same time as business owners.
“We want the local public health unit to be prepared,” said Burud.
She encouraged anyone with questions about the new law to call her office if necessary. “They can contact us, and if we don’t know the answer yet, we can contact our tobacco people in Minot,” she said.
Burud can be reached at the FDHU office in Kenmare by calling 701-385-4328.
The next meeting of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition will take place December 11th at Beer Bob’s, beginning at 12 noon. Everyone is welcome to attend.
“That meeting will happen not long after the implementation of the new law,” said Brekhus. “Maybe we’ll have issues we have to deal with at that time.”