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Editorial: Time has come for smoking ban stands

More than 39 percent of Americans now live in areas where statewide or local laws exist that limit smoking, including Meeker County.

Six states enacted indoor smoking bans in 2005 as public sentiment increasingly sees the light in the smoking debate.

There were fewer than 200 state and local laws in the United States banning smoking in 1985, USA Today reported Thursday. Now, more than 2,000 governmental units have some type of smoking restriction. Of those, 118 units ban all smoking in restaurants, bars and other workplaces.

Meeker County led the way in west central Minnesota as the county's smoking ban went into effect Oct. 1. It took considerable debate and faced significant opposition, but the Meeker County Board demonstrated wisdom and leadership in implementing a smoking ban.

Meeker was the fifth Minnesota county -- joining Beltrami, Hennepin, Ramsey and Olmsted -- to put a smoking ban in place. Six Minnesota cities have also implemented smoke-free ordinances.

Kandiyohi and McLeod counties are exploring the smoking bans, but other west central Minnesota counties either are taking the easy way out by waiting for state legislation or are not considering smoking ordinances at all.

The Minnesota Legislature also failed to approve a statewide smoking ban in 2005. Minnesota has long since lost the leadership it demonstrated with the adoption in 1975 of the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act.

The state of Washington approved the toughest smoking law this month, which banned smoking inside all public facilities and workplaces and outside within 25 feet of doors, windows and vents. Even North Dakota and Montana adopted smoking bans in 2005.

Kandiyohi County, the city of Willmar and other counties and cities in the region should follow Meeker County's example by not waiting for state action and implement smoking bans.

Finally, the Minnesota Legislature and Gov. Pawlenty should step up on this issue and adopt a smoking ban in 2006.