Minnesota continues its progressive agenda in guarding its citizens against the ills of smoking tobacco with the introduction of its Freedom to Breathe Act in the legislature. The Act—which has the qualified support of Governor Tim Pawlenty—would essentially ban all smoking statewide in public places and workplaces. Some listed exemptions include designated motel rooms and smoking rooms in tobacco shops. Private clubs (such as VFWs) would not be exempt, and Pawlenty acknowledges a bill absent that language might not get his signature.
In neighboring Wisconsin, Governor Jim Doyle recently stated his support of a statewide smoking ban in work places and in public places. Doyle also is pushing for a dramatic rise in the state cigarette tax (expected to increase from $0.77 a pack to up to a hefty $2.02 per pack).
Some local governments in both states have already passed smoking bans—including in restaurants and bars. If passed, statewide bans, it is argued, would level the playing field for businesses—as smokers would not be allowed to light up in any public establishment. A December 2003 poll of Minnesotans found only 23 percent smoked cigarettes (MN Poll), so libertarian-minded business interests will have their work cut out for them as they lobby against the legislation.