Carlton County smoking ban starts

Betty Brooks threatened to light up a Mark 100 at 12:01 a.m. today. Any other day at the Cloquet Bar & Lounge, bartender Keith Johnson wouldn't have cared. But at midnight the Carlton County smoking ban went into effect, and Brooks' cigarette...

Betty Brooks threatened to light up a Mark 100 at 12:01 a.m. today.

Any other day at the Cloquet Bar & Lounge, bartender Keith Johnson wouldn't have cared. But at midnight the Carlton County smoking ban went into effect, and Brooks' cigarette would have been illegal.

"I'm pulling the ashtrays at midnight," said Johnson, a 20-year smoker himself.

It was a taste of things to come for all Minnesotans when Oct. 1 rolls around, the date when the statewide smoking ban in all public workplaces kicks in.

The Carlton County Board passed its version of a smoking ban in February. Because the language was in place, commissioners decided to let the ban go into effect rather than waiting for the statewide ban, said Gordon Aanerud, Carlton County Board chairman. Restaurants in Cloquet and Moose Lake, as well as other businesses in the county, already were smoke-free.


But in bars such as the one Mike Gillmor owns on Cloquet Avenue, many patrons were lighting up a last Marlboro on Thursday night and wondering what today would bring. Many, including Charley Everson of Cloquet, grumbled about losing a personal freedom.

"They are forcing Mike to tell customers what to do in his own place," Everson said. He has been a smoker since 1981, and visits the Cloquet Bar & Lounge nearly every day to smoke "and have two or three," he said.

Everson thinks he might end up driving to Wisconsin to find a new watering hole. "People used to have a choice. Now they don't," he said.

Johnson predicted a drop in business at the Cloquet bar. A high percentage of bar regulars also smoke, including Brooks.

She has been a smoker for about 30 years. Brooks said she doesn't smoke at home, not wanting to expose her five children, now grown, to the habit. The bar was her place to play pool, have a beer and smoke, she said, and now she doesn't know where she will go.

When she was growing up, "it was part of life to smoke," Brooks said. "Now I feel like we're the bad people."

The county sent information to affected businesses last week, and on Thursday many bars had posted signs warning patrons not to smoke within 25 feet of all entrances, per Carlton County ordinance. The state smoking ban makes no mention of mandatory setbacks. Local governments can enact more-stringent standards than the statewide smoking ban, though not less-stringent ones.

Lake County commissioners had been considering a countywide smoking ban that would have taken effect Aug. 1. After the statewide ban was approved, commissioners decided to go ahead with their ban because they wanted a few regulations that were "a little tighter" than the state's version, and they pushed back their effective date to match the state's, Commissioner Lenore Johnson said.


Commissioners unanimously approved their version of a smoking ban on May 24. The Lake County ban will require people to stand at least 10 feet away from doors, windows and ventilation intakes at public buildings, and the signage requirements are stricter, Lenore Johnson said.

Early Thursday afternoon, Dennis Hanninen of Cloquet puffed on what might have been his last few cigarettes.

"I gotta quit anyhow," Hanninen said. When he started smoking about age 12, Hanninen would sneak Lucky Strikes from his mother's pack. He's been smoking for 40 years, and has tried many times to quit -- including during stints in the hospital for heart trouble. But a stool at the Cloquet Bar & Lounge and a bottle of root beer always made him want to pull out a pack of Old Gold cigarettes again.

"I'm against the ban, because of the government telling us what to do, but for my own self, it will probably help me to quit," Hanninen said. He said he would try to make his current pack his last.

If he quits, smoking ban supporters such as Jan Salo Korby of Cloquet would count it as a victory.

Korby, who works for the American Lung Association and as a respiratory therapist for St. Mary's Hospital in Duluth, has long fought to eliminate smoking in public places. She remembers when the Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet went smoke-free in 1986.

"I'm hoping that someday, people will look back on this time and say, 'You mean, people actually used to smoke in bars?' " Korby said. "Just like now, when people are amazed that you had to tell people to put out their cigarettes so you could treat them in their hospital beds."

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