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SD public smoking ban - local opinions

When the recently passed South Dakota smoke free law takes effect July 1, it will still be legal to smoke outdoors, such as walking down Main Street. The law covers all public workplaces with the exception of existing cigar bars, smoke shops and lodging rooms such as motels, which may designate smoking rooms.

According to the South Dakota State Medical Association, recent statistics show that only about 20 percent of South Dakotans smoke. The legal smoking age in South Dakota, the same as nationwide, is 18 years of age.

An unofficial and generalized survey was done concerning business owners and employees of establishments that will be affected by the law.

Kent Olson, administrator for Philip Health Services, Inc, and vice president of the Philip Chamber of Commerce, said, "From the health care business, I think it's a great thing. But, that is the standard line. How precisely will the law be enforced, I don't know."

Corky Thorson, past president of the chamber and a former business owner, said, "Personally, I don't really care. I don't really like banning it, but its probably for the best."

Some workers of directly affected businesses had other things to say. Some are definitely for the law, while a few are definitely against it. Some customers don't necessarily mind the law itself, though strongly object to any government interferences that take away individual rights of any kind. Others say that the right of non-smokers should be addressed as well. Others optimistically say that the law will be just one more aid in helping them finally quit the smoking habit.

Many believe that some customers will not continue to frequent the establishments, at least for a while, but will eventually come back as customers. There has long been a question of whether the traditional hangover is a result of just the alcohol or a result of the unaccustomed quantity of inhaled tobacco smoke. Several employees believed that the smoking ban will actually draw in more customers that the business will lose. Selling cigarettes and cigars is often a business courtesy to customers, and not a financial gain by business owners.

The exact enforcement of the law is in question. Will the owners and workers of businesses be required to call authorities? Some people think that loopholes will be found, then used by some customers and by some businesses.

There is an fledgling attempt in South Dakota to petition for a referendum to be put on a future ballot. If the smoking ban is challenged, it would not go into effect until a vote of the people determines that it is indeed a law or not. Many local people believe the referendum petition will not be able to solicit enough signatures. And if it does, the referendum will probably not pass by general vote.