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Letter: 'Smoking shack' is step backwards

To the Editor:

I was very disappointed to read about the "smoking shack" amendment that the Minnesota House tacked on to the budget-balancing bill.

The smoke-free law was thoroughly and publicly debated in the House and the Senate last year. A statewide survey earlier this year showed that 76 percent of Minnesotans support the law. Amending the law in the middle of the night without public input or discussion is wrong.

The "smoking shack" amendment would permit the construction of fully enclosed smoking rooms. While it does prohibit employees from serving food or beverages in the smoking room, it does not prohibit customers from taking food and drink into the smoking room.

Picture a room filled with thick clouds of smoke, overflowing ashtrays, empty bottles and dirty dishes. An employee will have to go into the smoking room on a regular basis to clean up after the smokers.

The House and Senate passed the smoke-free law last year to protect workers in our state from breathing secondhand smoke at work. People should not be required to breathe the toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke as a condition of employment.

This "smoking shack" amendment is a big step backwards. Employees at bars and restaurants deserve the same health protection given to all other workers in Minnesota.