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Editorial: Keep Freedom to Breathe legislation intact

smoking

Minnesota may face a budget crisis, but that hasn't stopped some legislators from working on a proposal that would significantly scale back the Freedom to Breathe Act.

A Star Tribune report Tuesday stated a partial repeal of the statewide smoking ban, which took effect in October 2007, would allow Minnesotans to smoke in bars that also serve food. Smoking would be permitted in bars "that provide a room sealed off from the adjoining restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling walls and a ventilation system that exchanges the indoor air every two hours," the report said.

We supported the Freedom to Breathe Act when it was introduced, and we do so today.

The recent Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey (www.mnadulttobaccosurvey.org), a collaborative effort of ClearWay Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health, offers evidence of Freedom to Breathe's public health benefits. Since 2007:

  • The number of adult Minnesotans who smoke has declined.
  • Naturally, so has exposure to secondhand smoke, the negative effects of which have been well documented.
  • Adult smokers in Minnesota are smoking fewer cigarettes per day.
  • More adult smokers are using behavioral counseling in their attempts to quit.

Easing Freedom to Breathe could negate some of this progress.

Sen. Michael Jungbauer, R-East Bethel, says the issue is "really about freedom of choice," and Sen. Chris Gerlach, R-Apple Valley, says "reducing smoking should not be a government mandate." Meanwhile, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, says: "We provide for basic levels of safety and health. That's our role and responsibility through common-sense regulation."

We share Dibble's point of view.

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