Smoke-free crusaders may now be at your door

After winning a statewide indoor ban, anti-smoking activists might go after apartments and condos.

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The state has enacted a statewide indoor smoking ban, but anti-smoking activists aren’t taking a break. Above, Southwest High School students Lauren Olson, left, and Mary Kubo, both 15, showed their support for the ban during a rally Oct. 25 in Minneapolis.

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Fresh from their success winning a statewide smoking ban in bars and restaurants, Minnesota's anti-smoking advocates are ready to zero in on where you live.

One anti-smoking group will kick-start a campaign this week to encourage landlords to outlaw smoking in their buildings. While the program would be purely voluntary for now, some communities might follow two California cities by considering broader ordinances that would apply to multi-unit dwellings.

Smoke-free groups are also considering pushes to restrict drivers who smoke with kids in their cars, park users who smoke and even cigarette-dangling youth-sport coaches. Still, condos and apartments appear to be the next battleground in the state's smoking wars.

It's part of a national trend aimed at snuffing out those who light up. Chicago can now fine people up to $500 for smoking within 15 feet of beaches and playgrounds. Albuquerque nixed smoking at the zoo. Davis County, Utah, has extended its ban to golf courses and cemeteries.

Outdoor smoking bans grow

The number of cities and counties that prohibit smoking in outdoor areas such as parks, stadiums and outdoor cafes has jumped from 30 in 1999 to 1,124 today, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation.

In Minnesota, groups still have many millions of dollars from their tobacco settlement warchests to combat the harm of tobacco and secondhand smoke -- and many ideas about how to do it.

"We're getting a lot of calls from tenants saying that they are getting second-hand smoke getting into the living unit from somewhere else in the apartment building," said Brittany McFadden, director of the Live Smoke Free campaign. "They are not letting anyone smoke in their unit but smoke is drifting in from other people's units, balconies or patios. They are getting sick from their own living space and there's not a lot they can do to protect themselves."

The program will focus on apartment buildings in the seven-county metro area and seeks to educate landlords about the benefits of adopting smoke-free policies.

Big Brother or deterrent?

At the 58-unit Talheim Apartments in Chaska, residents have had six months to brace for the building-wide ban that goes into effect Saturday.

"Some residents have complained: 'What's next?' But one person told me he's so glad because he's been trying for years to quit and this might help," said Sheila Knox, Talheim's apartment manager. "I'll be out sniffing in the hallways."

While the statewide law prohibits smoking in common areas of apartment buildings, there is no provision regarding individual apartment units. Earlier this year, two California cities -- Belmont and Temecula -- passed ordinances for smoke-free rental unit housing.

Some local smokers interviewed on Friday thought government was overstepping its bounds by shifting bans inside the confines of their homes. Others shrugged and said they expect the smoke-free screw will only be tightened.

"It's ridiculously Big Brother to go and tell me what I can and can't do in my own home," said Brian Van Sickle, 32, of Minneapolis.

"I can see not allowing smoking in cars with kids, but going into your own space if the landlord doesn't mind? That's too far," said Barb Jensen, another Minneapolis renter.

Electrician Mike Riggs of Becker, who was taking a cigarette break while helping build a 200-unit apartment building in Minneapolis, said fewer fires might be ignited by smokers falling asleep. "But I don't see smoke drifting through an inch-and-a-half of drywall," he said.

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