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Kenmare volunteers working toward statewide smoking ban

Members of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition have joined other volunteers around the state in a signature-collecting petition drive to put a new statewide tobacco-free initiated measure on the general election ballot in November.

6/26/12 (Tue)

By Caroline Downs

Members of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition have joined other volunteers around the state in a signature-collecting petition drive to put a new statewide tobacco-free initiated measure on the general election ballot in November.

The new initiative was announced officially announced June 13th by Smoke-Free North Dakota. Dr. Eric and Ruth Ganes of Kenmare are listed among the 34 members of the measure’s sponsoring committee.

If approved by voters, the measure would amend North Dakota Century Code to extend the prohibitions on smoking to hotels, motels and other lodging places; retail tobacco stores; private residences that serve as child care, adult day care or health care facilities; bars and truckstops; and all public facilities rented for private functions.

Smoking would also be prohibited in specified outdoor locations, including within 20 feet of entrances, exits, windows, air intakes and ventilation systems of enclosed areas where smoking is prohibited.

One provision of the proposed measure is that the persons who own or control these public places would be able to apply for exemptions to the local health department or district if they can demonstrate that smoke will not infiltrate the nearby buildings or ventilation systems.

If approved, the measure would create and enact a new section of Century Code that specifies the responsibility of owners, operators, managers or other persons in control of public places or places of employment to make certain the “no smoking” policy is made known and followed. This includes posting “no smoking” signs and removal of ashtrays for use by smokers.

Penalties, including fines ranging from $50 to $500, are also described for anyone who chooses to smoke in an area in which smoking is prohibited.

Ganes wants to promote
healthy communities
For Ruth Ganes, retired First District Health Unit public health nurse in Kenmare, sponsoring the initiated measure offers a way to promote healthy communities in the state. “As a health care provider, I’ve seen a lot of illnesses and complications from being in the environment of secondhand smoke and not smoking yourself,” she said.

Many opponents to a statewide ban on smoking in public places maintain that bar or truck stop employees can find another job if they don’t like secondhand smoke, but Ganes refuses to agree with that argument. “We don’t always have choices about where we can work,” she said, “and I think it’s important to be able to work in a healthy environment.”

She recognizes that individuals and groups will be opposed to the initiated measure, but she appreciates the opportunity to put a smoking prohibition directly to the state’s voters. “We’re fortunate we can all make choices in what we want our government to do,” she said.

Kenmare Coalition
will collect signatures
Supporters of the initiative need to collect 13,452 valid signatures to present the petition to the Secretary of State’s office by August 8th for verification and approval of the initiative for the November ballot.

“We’re shooting for 15,000 signatures by then,” said Holly Brekhus, community outreach coordinator for First District Health Unit Tobacco Prevention.

Members of the Kenmare Coalition made plans to collect signatures at Kenmare’s Pioneer Day on July 8th and the Customer Appreciation event July 10th. Coalition members can also be contacted by any persons interested in reading the specific language of the measure and signing the petition.

Other volunteers will be working at county fairs, festivals and other events across the state to gather the necessary number of signatures.

The Kenmare Coalition decided to direct their efforts toward the statewide non-smoking initiated measure at this time. However, they will attend the Kenmare City Council meeting in August to describe the statewide measure and to review the documentation of local surveys, resolutions and letters of support for a smoke-free policy in Kenmare.

“We want to do that as a courtesy to council members,” Brekhus said.

Bismarck, Devils Lake, Fargo, Grand Forks, Napoleon, Pembina and West Fargo already have ordinances prohibiting smoking in buildings open to the public, including bars. A similar ordinance will go into effect July 1st in Cavalier. During the elections held June 12th, 67 percent of citizens in Linton voted in favor of a smoke-free ordinance for their city, as an advisory vote to the city council.

According to Chelsey Matter, chairwoman for Smoke-Free North Dakota’s sponsoring committee for the initiated measure, those ordinances protect about 37 percent of North Dakota residents. Smoke-Free North Dakota would like to see the entire state covered with a smoking prohibition.

More information about the initiated measure petition can be found online on the Smoke-Free North Dakota committee’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/#!/SmokeFreeND.

The next meeting of the Kenmare Tobacco-Free Coalition is scheduled for Tuesday, July 10, beginning at noon at M&K’s Pizza Hub.

Information about the Kenmare Tobacco Free Coalition is posted online at www.tobaccofreeKenmare.com. Persons who are interested in the Coalition’s activities are welcome to contact Pauline Nielsen at 701-385-4907 or Barb Scherbenske at 701-385-4412.