State smoking ban turns five today

Happy five years of having to smoke these outside the bar.
Happy five years of having to smoke these outside the bar.
SuperFantastic | Flickr Creative Commons

The Freedom to Breathe Act turns five today! That's five years of shamed huddling outside the bar (or restaurant, or workplace) in rain, sleet, snow, just to light up. And for what? Well... "Simply put, Minnesotans are healthier," says Dr. Edward Ehlinger, the state's Department of Health commissioner, in a release.

See also:
- Mayo Clinic study credits smoking bans for dramatic decrease in heart attacks
- Minnesotans love the smoking ban as much as the Vikings, less than walleye dinners, State Fair
- Smoking ban isn't hurting TC business, study shows
- 2004 throwback: The Politics of Smoking: Why a smoking ban won't work

Ehlinger points to less exposure to secondhand smoke, fewer addicted smokers, and a Mayo Clinic study that shows "a decline in heart attacks after smoke-free laws took effect." Public opinion is also on the side of hearts and lungs: the anniversary release cites a 2011 poll that shows 79 percent of Minnesotans support the law, and 86 percent believe it makes for healthier bars and restaurants for both patrons and employees.

Of course, some version of a smoking ban took effect on a more hodgepodge, city-and-county scale prior to Oct. 1, 2007, when Gov. Pawlenty signed the state-wide version. Minneapolis sent smokers outside in 2005, and St. Paul followed a year later.

Olmsted County, around Rochester, was on the bandwagon even earlier, and it's the test area for that Mayo Clinic study. A smoke-free law was passed in restaurants in the county in 2002, and Mayo researchers collected data starting 18 months prior to the law, and continued for more than seven years, until 18 months after the state-wide ban went into effect. During that time, heart attacks and cardiac deaths in the area dropped 45 percent, and the number of adult smokers decreased 23 percent.

Nicotine addicts' libertarian argument falls a little flat in the face of numbers like that. So despite a few other studies more in their favor (like one showing that smoking bans are related to an increase in DUI deaths), for now, the state's 625,000 smokers will have to keep scouring for loopholes (think: barflies pretending they're in a "theatrical production").

Long live sidewalk cafes, patios, and outdoor heaters.

More related coverage:
- Hennepin County bans smoking everywhere, even its cars
- Up in Smoke: Minnesota's smoking ban is putting local hookah bars out of business

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