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The Associated Press February 16, 2010, 5:31PM ET

SD lawmakers reject 2nd smoking ban ballot measure

South Dakota residents have known for months that they would get to vote this fall on whether to accept the state's new comprehensive smoking ban.

On Tuesday, lawmakers on the House Health Committee rejected a proposal that would have asked voters to also decide the whether to instead back a weaker ban.

Opponents of the proposed weaker ban, including House Republican Leader Bob Faehn, said it would have been confusing to voters to have to try to distinguish between two competing measures.

"I'm kind of suspicious that's what might be going on here," said Faehn, who took the unusual step of appearing before the committee to lobby against the bill.

The Legislature last year passed a measure that bans smoking in bars, video lottery establishments and the casinos in Deadwood. The measure, which would extend a ban that has outlawed smoking in most workplaces and public areas since 2002, was to have taken effect July 1.

Supporters of the ban argue it is needed to protect nonsmoking customers and employees from cancer, heart disease and other health problems caused by secondhand smoke.

But bar and casino owners collected petition signatures to refer the smoking ban to a public vote. After an extensive legal battle, a judge ruled they had collected enough signatures to put the ban on the November ballot so voters can decide whether it takes effect.

The bill defeated Tuesday would have allowed smoking in bars and casinos if those businesses set up separate rooms for smoking and nonsmoking customers.

Jennifer Stalley, an American Cancer Society official who promoted the ban passed last year, said the Legislature should stick with the complete ban, which would protect people from health problems caused by smoke.

If both smoking measures were on the ballot and both passed, a court would probably have had to determine which took precedence, Stalley said.

Supporters of the second measure said voters should be given an option to allow smoking in rooms separated from nonsmokers. If the complete ban passes, revenue shared by casinos and the state is likely to drop by 20 percent, they said.

Owners of video lottery casinos in North Sioux City said the complete ban would cause many of their customers to drive a few miles to Iowa casinos that allow smoking.

Joan Christiansen said her North Sioux City video lottery business could provide separate rooms for smokers and nonsmokers. "We can do it all," she said.

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