Questions and answers about the smoking banby Martiga Lohn, Associated Press
Minnesota's "Freedom to Breathe Act" takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday, forcing smokers to put out their cigarettes or take their habit outside of bars and restaurants. Here are answers to some common questions about the smoking ban.
Q. What is prohibited?
A. Smoking, or carrying a lighted cigarette or cigar, in most indoor public places and workplaces. That includes bars, restaurants, private clubs such as VFWs, bowling alleys, country club lounges, hotel and motel lobbies, public buses and trains, taxis, home offices where employees work or customers visit, home day cares when children are there, and smaller commercial vehicles if more than one person is present.
Q. Where can I smoke legally?
A. Private homes and cars, hotel and motel rooms, buildings on family farms, cabs of heavy commercial trucks and farm vehicles, a disabled veterans camp in Washington County and tobacco shops if you're a customer trying out the products.
Smoking remains legal for scientific studies, American Indian ceremonies and actors performing on stage. The ban also doesn't cover casinos and other establishments on Indian lands.
Q. What about smoking outdoors?
A. Depends where you are. The new law doesn't restrict outdoor smoking, but some local ordinances do.
Q. Who will enforce the smoking ban?
A. The Minnesota Department of Health is ultimately responsible, but the agency is relying on bar and restaurant owners and the public to do most of the enforcement.
Proprietors must post "no smoking" signs, remove ashtrays and ask anyone who smokes to stop or go outside; if the smoker refuses, the establishment is supposed to refuse to serve him. Local law enforcement can issue citations.
Spotters of illegal smoking are encouraged to tell proprietors, even anonymously through form letters posted on the department's Web site.
Q. What are the consequences of smoking illegally?
A. Petty misdemeanor charges with fines of up to $300. The same goes for proprietors who flout the law - plus, the Health Department can add penalties of up to $10,000 and some local public health agencies have authority to suspend or revoke liquor licenses.
Q. Will I notice the statewide smoking ban?
A. Yes, especially if you visit bars outside of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, Golden Valley, Mankato, Hutchinson or Hennepin and Carlton counties -- where bar bans were already in force.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)