By Matt Leingang
Enquirer staff writer
AVONDALE - Calling it an important national issue that cannot be ignored in Cincinnati, Vice Mayor Alicia Reece on Wednesday opened public debate on a proposed indoor smoking ban for all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.
About 30 people showed up at the American Cancer Society's offices on Reading Road to join an advisory panel that will study the issue - from health and economic perspectives - and ultimately produce a report to City Council, possibly in November.
The panel, which includes citizens, business representatives and public health advocates, didn't take long to split into two camps: those who seek to protect workers and patrons from health problems linked to secondhand smoke, and those who argue that businesses should retain the freedom to decide their own smoking policies.
Opponents, mostly bar and restaurant owners, even objected to holding the meeting at the Cancer Society.
"Can't we be on neutral ground? I feel like I've been backed into a corner," said Tom Ford, co-owner of Murphy's Pub in Clifton Heights. He said he's concerned that a smoking ban would drive customers away.
Reece urged the panel to keep an open mind, and the discussion - while spirited - never got disrespectful.
Nationwide, more than 1,700 cities, including Toledo and Lexington, and 10 states have clean indoor air laws, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation in Berkeley, Calif.
Columbus voters will decide a proposed smoking ban in November.
Cincinnati's advisory panel finished its 90-minute meeting by naming two co-chairs:
Bobbie Sterne, former city mayor and councilwoman.
Marjorie Perry, director of revenue management with the Cincinnati Hilton Netherland Plaza.
The panel will next meet Sept. 8, again at the Cancer Society.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, exposure to secondhand smoke, a carcinogen, leads to as many as 50,000 deaths each year from heart disease and 3,000 deaths from lung cancer.
Also controversial, though, is the economics of a smoking ban. Businesses, especially bars, claim that revenues sink by as much as 40 percent. But health advocates say those claims are exaggerated.
A study released last week by the University of Toledo and the Medical College of Ohio should add fuel to the fire. The study said that smoking bans in Toledo and Bowling Green have not hurt bars, restaurants and bowling alleys.
Researchers looked at financial data on 700 restaurants, bars and bowling centers that a private company compiles for banks. The financial outlooks of businesses in the Toledo suburbs of Maumee, Sylvania and Perrysburg remained the same, indicating that patrons are not fleeing the city.
Critics derided the $400,000 study because it was funded by the anti-smoking Ohio Tobacco Use and Control Foundation.
TOP LOCAL HEADLINES
Allen admits to affair with employee
Kmart victim's family baffled by shooting
Smoking ban debate begins
Lawsuit: Public Defender's Office fails
Iraqi girl's open-heart surgery called a success
Pain-control treatment found in need of reform
Middletown Guard unit may be heading home
Gay marriage poll a surprise
Baby starved to death; mother sent to prison
Death sentence upheld by Ohio Supreme Court
Dentists aid victims of domestic violence
T-shirt slogan 'cruel,' W.Va. governor says
Officials link casings to suspect
Kenmore man dies after police scuffle
Food's ready; there's no need to stop driving
Judge extends timber sales ban
Cleves man, 24, dies in single-car crash
Local news briefs
Sewer plant a step closer
Owls culprits in cat deaths
Florence Y'all fest on hiatus, but not parade
Free Levee lunch parking begins in Sept.
Jockeys want fees paid for ad patch lawsuits
New Spanish classes help officers relate
State holds hearing on overtime rules
Tobacco buyout forum's focus
Suspect in killing hunting a skunk
Jobless rate declines, but manufacturing weak
Ky. election fraud trial starts
Worker hit in head by 400-pound weight
Cuts force students to find rides or walk
Charter schools suit reinstated
Lakota support staff gets 35-cent-an-hour raise
Medical expansion starts
A Fest for Tobacco?
W. Chester OKs $1.4M ballfields complex
Butler Co. tries to embarrass its child-support scofflaws
Loveland eases gun law
Nader campaign set back
Warren auditor guilty of DUI
GOOD THINGS HAPPENING
Hawaiian ride helps with AIDS
N.M. Hodapp, district manager
Nellie Smith never let child go hungry