Freedom to Breathe Act not expected to be challengedNRCHS hopes to send positive messages to legislators
By: Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — Less than two weeks before the Minnesota Legislature kicks off its 2008 session, Nobles-Rock Community Health Services Educator Paula Anderson is encouraging people to share their positive stories about the implementation of the Freedom to Breathe Act.
Her goal is to share the stories with legislators — to let them know the residents of southwest Minnesota appreciate the law, which prohibits smoking in indoor public spaces such as bars and restaurants. The Freedom to Breathe Act has been in effect since Oct. 1, 2007.
Anderson invites residents of both Nobles and Rock counties to submit a short story at www.smokefreenobles.org. The stories will be collected through much of February, said Anderson, with portions of some stories to be used in newspaper and radio ad campaigns.
“They can talk about Freedom to Breathe and what they enjoy,” Anderson said. “We’ve received some really great stories.”
Anderson said the stories that have been posted so far range from people talking about smokers they know who have quit, to the enjoyment of going to a restaurant, bar or to the bowling alley without having to be exposed to secondhand smoke. More personal stories have been about people who lost someone as a result of smoking.
“Now that the session is coming up, we want the legislators to know that people are really enjoying the benefits. People are healthier — people are quitting and children are less exposed (to secondhand smoke),” Anderson said. “It’s one of the reasons we wanted the law to pass in the first place.”
In addition to inviting residents to share their stories on the Web site, Anderson said she is compiling a giant thank-you card that will be delivered to the state during the legislative session. People are invited to sign their name or include a note in the card, which will be available for signing at various events, such as upcoming home basketball games at schools in the two counties.
Anderson said it took a lot of time and effort to get the Freedom to Breathe legislation passed in Minnesota. Delivering cards and e-mails from residents of southwest Minnesota will be a way for the S.A.F.E. (Safe Air For Everyone) and CAFE (Clean Air For Everyone) coalitions to show their appreciation for all of the work done by the Legislature.
“It was such a hard battle,” she said. “Personally, I would hate to see all that hard work go down the drain.”
Sen. Jim Vickerman, D-Tracy, hasn’t heard any rumblings about the issue coming back this session.
“I’ve been hearing some of the charitable pull tabs are down and the business is down 15 to 20 percent,” Vickerman said.
“My gut thing is we’ll leave (the issue) alone for a while to see what goes on with it. We’re not supposed to do anything controversial this year because it’s a short session,” he added with a laugh.
Vickerman, along with state representatives Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, and Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, voted against the Freedom to Breathe legislation.
“I thought there should be some exemptions,” said Vickerman, who had hoped to exclude Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and American Legions.
Now that the legislation has been in effect for four months, he said, “I can live with it. My kids all wanted it. I just made a commitment that I wouldn’t do that to a person.
“Anything that is new is hard to adjust to,” he added. “We kind of hate change, but after change gets here, you realize it’s not too bad.”
Since the Freedom to Breathe Act took effect, Anderson said warning letters have been sent to four businesses within Rock and Nobles counties due to reports of indoor smoking incidents. In addition, three inspections have been made to businesses that reportedly allowed people to smoke indoors.
Anderson continues to accept anonymous tips at (507) 283-5066, ext. 3017, on businesses that are not in compliance. If there is an individual who has been asked to quit smoking in a business and refuses to do so, law enforcement should be called, she added.