As of Monday, all work places in Minnesota, including bars and restaurants, prohibit smoking as part of the Freedom to Breathe provisions that expand the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act. For many customers, it will be a welcome relief. For some bar and restaurant owners, there are worries about the impact on the bottom line due to lost customers.

The provisions were signed by the governor to protect employees and the public from the health hazards of secondhand smoke, which is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The surgeon general says there is no safe exposure to secondhand smoke as it contributes to lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults, and sudden infant death syndrome in newborns.

It may seem like a major step for the state, but when I was talking to a young news person on our staff last week, I realized how far we have come. Now, I don't think of myself as an old-timer, but things sure are different than when I started out in the newspaper business.

For one thing, the office at my college newspaper as well as ones at other newspapers where I worked in the early 1980s, including the one in Spring Valley when I moved to Minnesota, often had a haze of smoke in the air. Although I was a nonsmoker, I always just chalked it up as part of the job. Although I knew about the harm smoking causes, I never realized the danger of secondhand smoke back then.

Now in 2007, one incident last week occurred in our office when the back door was open and someone was taking a smoking break outside. A wisp of smoke drifted in, causing quite a bit of concern among several of the people working inside.

That's quite a change in just over two decades.

In talking to the young adult about news coverage, I recalled how, early in my career, I used to always smell like smoke when I left city council meetings. A former city administrator in Spring Valley was a heavy smoker and he smoked during meetings. No one ever questioned this in the 1980s.

Even without the no smoking provisions in public buildings, it just wouldn't happen today without an uproar.

Often, laws are more a reflection of public opinion rather than an initiative for change. They often drive existing trends, rather than start them.

The new provisions that cover nearly all public places are really aimed at restaurants and bars, the last bastion of acceptable smoking.

Although the Spring Valley newspaper office had always been an acceptable smoking zone, when I took over, I banned smoking in the building. It wasn't a hard line rule for customers at first, but they were often in and out quickly and the number of people smoking inside our building was so miniscule, it didn't have an impact on my business. It's been years since someone even tried to enter our doors with a lit cigarette.

My policy also never stopped me from hiring smokers. They just had to adapt and as far as I know our smoking policy never contributed to any of them leaving.

People are very adaptable. Think about how the acceptability of smoking has changed in the last couple decades.

The number of smokers has declined, but they have never been a majority in our country. The peak was in 1944 when 41 percent of Americans smoked. The number has been consistently declining since then. However, from the late 1980s through today, it has always been under 30 percent and now is 21 percent.

The decline of less than 10 percent since the 1980s isn't enough to warrant the major societal changes regarding smoking. Rather, it is the realization by the majority of residents of the impact secondhand smoke has on their health.

Government mandated change causes some resentment and since most bars and restaurants in the area are small businesses, there is justifiable concern. However, the trend of people expecting clean air and a healthy environment wherever they go is never going to reverse itself.

The difference for the bar and restaurant owners is that the change is coming with a big bang through a state law, rather than a gradual shift in society that has changed most other work places over the last two decades. Still, I bet a few years down the road, some restaurant or bar owner is going to be talking to a young person about how different it was back in the early 2000s when a haze used to fill his establishment.

And, as was the case for me, he may reflect on how he is beginning to sound like an old-timer and wonder how things changed so quickly without him fully realizing the transformation it has made in his everyday life.

Op-12345-PubNote#40

As of Monday, all work places in Minnesota, including bars and restaurants, prohibit smoking as part of the Freedom to Breathe provisions that expand the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act. For many customers, it will be a welcome relief. For some bar and restaurant owners, there are worries about the impact on the bottom line due to lost customers.

The provisions were signed by the governor to protect employees and the public from the health hazards of secondhand smoke, which is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. The surgeon general says there is no safe exposure to secondhand smoke as it contributes to lung cancer and coronary heart disease in adults, and sudden infant death syndrome in newborns.

It may seem like a major step for the state, but when I was talking to a young news person on our staff last week, I realized how far we have come. Now, I don't think of myself as an old-timer, but things sure are different than when I started out in the newspaper business.

For one thing, the office at my college newspaper as well as ones at other newspapers where I worked in the early 1980s, including the one in Spring Valley when I moved to Minnesota, often had a haze of smoke in the air. Although I was a nonsmoker, I always just chalked it up as part of the job. Although I knew about the harm smoking causes, I never realized the danger of secondhand smoke back then.

Now in 2007, one incident last week occurred in our office when the back door was open and someone was taking a smoking break outside. A wisp of smoke drifted in, causing quite a bit of concern among several of the people working inside.

That's quite a change in just over two decades.

In talking to the young adult about news coverage, I recalled how, early in my career, I used to always smell like smoke when I left city council meetings. A former city administrator in Spring Valley was a heavy smoker and he smoked during meetings. No one ever questioned this in the 1980s.

Even without the no smoking provisions in public buildings, it just wouldn't happen today without an uproar.

Often, laws are more a reflection of public opinion rather than an initiative for change. They often drive existing trends, rather than start them.

The new provisions that cover nearly all public places are really aimed at restaurants and bars, the last bastion of acceptable smoking.

Although the Spring Valley newspaper office had always been an acceptable smoking zone, when I took over, I banned smoking in the building. It wasn't a hard line rule for customers at first, but they were often in and out quickly and the number of people smoking inside our building was so miniscule, it didn't have an impact on my business. It's been years since someone even tried to enter our doors with a lit cigarette.

My policy also never stopped me from hiring smokers. They just had to adapt and as far as I know our smoking policy never contributed to any of them leaving.

People are very adaptable. Think about how the acceptability of smoking has changed in the last couple decades.

The number of smokers has declined, but they have never been a majority in our country. The peak was in 1944 when 41 percent of Americans smoked. The number has been consistently declining since then. However, from the late 1980s through today, it has always been under 30 percent and now is 21 percent.

The decline of less than 10 percent since the 1980s isn't enough to warrant the major societal changes regarding smoking. Rather, it is the realization by the majority of residents of the impact secondhand smoke has on their health.

Government mandated change causes some resentment and since most bars and restaurants in the area are small businesses, there is justifiable concern. However, the trend of people expecting clean air and a healthy environment wherever they go is never going to reverse itself.

The difference for the bar and restaurant owners is that the change is coming with a big bang through a state law, rather than a gradual shift in society that has changed most other work places over the last two decades. Still, I bet a few years down the road, some restaurant or bar owner is going to be talking to a young person about how different it was back in the early 2000s when a haze used to fill his establishment.

And, as was the case for me, he may reflect on how he is beginning to sound like an old-timer and wonder how things changed so quickly without him fully realizing the transformation it has made in his everyday life.