I'm generally suspicious of polls that are put out by groups with a special interest in the results, but a poll out today from ClearWay Minnesota provides the basis for an ongoing discussion on the smoking ban in Minnesota.
The poll says that one year after the beginning of the Minnesota smoking ban, 77 percent support it.
From the looks of things, a year of living under the smoking ban hasn't changed many minds. Those who were against it, may still be against it. Those who were for it, are still for it. The 2006 State Fair survey, for example, found about the same level of support for the ban (71%). Another poll in 2007 found 77% favoring some form of smoking ban.
This latest poll didn't ask how people think the law is working and only 17% of the people surveyed were smokers. (Download poll questions in Word format). One wonders what percentage of the 23% who don't favor the ban, are the 17% who smoke?
Is that number going down as a result of the smoking ban? It's too early to know officially. According to the Minnesota Medical Association, 17% is the percentage of Minnesotans who smoke, citing the Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey.
The survey found that Minnesota's adult smoking rate has declined to a new low of 17 percent. That figure is down approximately 5 percentage points since 1999 and represents 164,000 fewer smokers. Minnesota's declines are impressive compared to national trends, where smoking rates appear to have stalled at about 20 percent since 2004.
However, the reduction in smoking cited in the survey had nothing to do with the smoking ban (and so far there's no indication the ban has led people to quit smoking) because it used statistics through 2007.
Has the smoking ban had any effect on you or your business?
The variety of bars that I'll go into has increased, because after partial bans came about, I never went into a place that allowed smoking when there was any other option.
I'm not a smoker, but initially I was against a smoking ban in bars; but now, when I go to bars in other states that do not have the ban, I find myself continually shocked by the wall of smoke I run into, which makes me grateful for the ban here in Minnesota.
The passage of the state law a year ago had a very direct effect on me and my work.
Full disclosure: I am the communications director for the American Lung Association of Minnesota.
Like a lot of other people in the public health field, I dedicated a lot of my time in helping people understand this legislation and what it means to our health. I was there when Saint Paul City Councilmember Dave Thune started the wave of local ordiances rolling in 2004, I was there when Governor Pawlenty signed the Freedom To Breathe Act into law.
Now I have been shifted to other areas and duties at the American Lung Association of Minnesota. Frankly, I won't miss the long hours and getting yelled at by smoking ban critic Sue Jeffers. I'm pretty proud of the lawmakers who stood up in favor of this law, and especially of the everyday bar owners and hospitality staff who obey and enforce it -- even if some still disagree on the need for such a law.
So the state law really change my job description and focus at work. Thankfully, there were other slots I could move into. I'm still keeping in the game, though.
Outside of my duties at the ALAMN, I helped to organize a Minnesota Smokefree Veterans group, served on a board of directors for a smokefree effort in Anoka County, and now serve on a Task Force helping soldiers returning from Iraq and Afganistan kick the smoking habit.
I or no-one I know of knows about the vote or polls whether or not to have such a law. While it may be that some have excepted it as "for the better" and it does introduce the cleaner option, freedom to choose was not an option I have ever seen. Since the law was first introduced, I deliberately walked into bars and restaurants during the daytime hours and asked if there was any such vote or poll taken... a couple had stated there was a city meeting that they could not attend but the rest were not cognizant of the option to choose.
So, my point is that there may or may not have been an option via a town hall meeting or something similar but the patrons and community know nothing of it. Since it wouldn't be so hard to believe that the community would not know whats on the agenda of any town hall meeting until it hit the evening news... I'll just say that a vote of the communities at large was not taken..it was not on any voting poll and not sent out or introduced in a way the the greater number of people and businesses were going to prompt a vote. IMO... this is a travesty of justice, freedom and the right to vote.