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Hennepin County bans smoking everywhere, even its cars

Smokers aren't going to be welcome anywhere on Hennepin County property, including in county-owned vehicles, after commissioners approved a smoking ban by a 6-1 margin yesterday.

The goal of the measure is to just clear the air uniformly for all county property. It'll be interesting to see over time whether the move has an impact on the smoking rate in the county, which is already lower than state and national averages.

"People are free to smoke, just not on our property," commissioner Mike Opat told Fox 9.

The new rule builds on previous policies that banned smoking in, and within 45 feet, of all county buildings. And it affects an already ever-shrinking minority: 21 percent of adults in the county were smokers in 1998, but by last year that figure had dropped to just 12 percent. And even though there are now about 79,000 more adults living in the county compared to 1998, the actual number of smokers dropped by 64,000.

Not that county residents are the only ones affected by the ban. But statewide numbers show more and more Minnesotans in general are either kicking the habit or never taking it up in the first place, according to the latest Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey. The percentage of adult Minnesotans who smoke dropped to 16.1 percent in 2010 compared to 22.1 percent in 1999.

The Hennepin County smoking ban starts on July 1.

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