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Survey: Ban smoking at day cares

A recent survey of Goodhue County residents shows overwhelming support for smoke-free day care and foster care policies, but opinion is less clear when it comes to smoking in rental properties and greater restrictions on e-cigarettes.

As many as 89 percent of county residents support around-the-clock smoking bans for day cares, according to the survey conducted by Zenith Research Group and Four Corners Partnership.

The Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act prohibits smoking in licensed day care facilities and group or family homes, but only during hours of operation.

Even if children are not directly exposed to second-hand smoke, residual toxins can stick to clothing, upholstery and toys, according to Four Corners Partnership.

It’s called “third-hand smoke,” said Gina Johnson, the ClearWay Minnesota tobacco grant coordinator with Goodhue County Health and Human Services.

“Pretty much when you walk into a room after someone has been smoking and you can still smell it,” Johnson said.

Studies show “harmful particulates” from cigarette smoke can remain on surfaces for months, according to the Public Health Law Center at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul. Small children are at a greater risk of exposure because of a tendency to crawl on and breathe near dirty floors and surfaces.

Child care providers are required to inform parents and guardians that smoking is allowed indoors when the day care is not in business, according to Minnesota law.

Additionally, 72 percent of Goodhue County residents who participated in the survey said they also support making foster homes smoke free, which is not covered state law.

Johnson said one of the goals of the Four Corners Partnership and the smoking survey is to research options for local-ordinances to fill gaps left at the state level.

A Steel County ordinance passed in January bans smoking by parents in both homes and vehicles while foster children are present.

Split opinion

Residents were less gung-ho when it comes to smoke-free rental property rules, with around 49 percent voicing support, according to the survey.

However, 63 percent of those polled said they would pay more to live in a rental property that is smoke free.

Goodhue County is working to provide landlords information about the financial and health benefits of smoke-free policies, funded through a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health.

Opinion is likewise divided when it comes to rules around electronic cigarettes.

On a 1-to-7 scale, Goodhue County residents responded with an average of 4.4 in favor of forcing retailers to sell e-cigarettes behind the counter.

“It’s more for people under 18,” Johnson said, adding that putting e-cigarette displays off sales floors will make them less attractive for young people.

The sale of e-cigarettes to minors is illegal in Minnesota. More than a dozen metro cities also adopted policies to keep e-cigarettes behind the counter, according to Four Corners Partnership.

The booming e-cigarette market has been driven largely by marketing, which does not have the same television restrictions as traditional tobacco products, Johnson said.

Four Corners Partnership is a coalition of Dodge, Goodhue, Rice and Steel County public health agencies.

The survey was conducted through random telephone inquiries of 1,010 residents in the four counties between July and August. It was funded through a grant from ClearWay Minnesota.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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