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Our View: Tobacco Battles continue

If you thought the controversy over smoking was about to end with the referendum in Duluth this month, you are mistaken. The drive for a general prohibition on smoking anywhere that it might affect nonsmokers is continuing.

If you thought the controversy over smoking was about to end with the referendum in Duluth this month, you are mistaken. The drive for a general prohibition on smoking anywhere that it might affect nonsmokers is continuing.
Need proof? In Montgomery County, Md., last week, the County Council set stiff fines for people who smoke in their homes if it offends their neighbors.
The county's new indoor air quality standards treat tobacco smoke the same as other pollutants, such as asbestos, radon, molds or pesticides. If your smoke drifts into a neighbor's home -- whether through a door, vent or an open window -- your neighbor can complain to the county's Department of Environmental Protection.
Smokers, and in some cases landlords or condominium associations that inadequately ventilate buildings, then may face fines of up to $750 if they fail to solve the problem.
Meanwhile, some landlords are taking a pro-active approach. Smoke-free apartment registries have appeared in cities across the nation, and a few renters have successfully sued smokers or landlords under general nuisance laws.
Opponents are arguing that this is a classic example of class warfare. If your home is on a two-acre lot, your neighbors may never know if you light up. If you live in an apartment or condo, however, it's a different story.
The Tobacco Battles will continue as long as the millions that states received in their lawsuits against Big Tobacco hold out. In the meantime, social mores in community after community will be repeatedly tested in a quest to improve public health by driving down tobacco consumption.
Ultimately, a line will be drawn somewhere between prohibition of the sale of tobacco and going back to smoking on demand anywhere. Just where is anybody's guess, but the battles will be protracted.
As the Hibbing City Council unanimously agreed last week, a better way to approach the problem is on a statewide level at the Legislature. Anti-smoking measures will be no less controversial, but at that level they will be less likely to pit neighbor against neighbor, business against business and community against community.

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