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Petition may blow more than smoke at ordinance

Coalition expects 2,000 signatures against ban

By Lanier Holt

lholt@postbulletin.com

Some Rochester residents have already had enough of the smoking ban and are attempting to get the county board to reconsider by circulating petitions.

Susan Morley and Tricia Olson, both of Rochester, recently formed the Coalition for Smokers Freedom and expect to receive nearly 2,000 signatures on anti-ban petitions they have been circulating at local restaurants since the ban went into effect Jan. 1.

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Olson said she was so mad when leaving information meetings about the ban that she decided to do something about it. She joined forces with Morley, who had a letter requesting a smoking ban petition printed in the Post-Bulletin.

"This is not a smoking issue, it's an issue of people being sick and tired of being controlled by special interest groups with lots of money and by government intervention," said Olson.

Minnesota Partnership for Action Against Tobacco, an organization created with funding from the state's tobacco settlement, has come under scrutiny for its work in anti-tobacco campaigns.

"The more people are finding out, the angrier and angrier people are getting," said Olson. "This is not something that's going to fade away."

The petition was sent primarily to establishments who responded to Morley's letter. She expects to keep sending out the petition until the end of February and possibly early March, and then forward it to Olmsted County Board Chairman Jeff Thompson.

Commissioners voted 5-2 to enact the ban in November. Thompson was one of the votes of dissent.

He says the petition effort reinforces his belief that there are a lot of people against the ordinance. Thompson added that the petitions could prompt a countywide vote on the issue.

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