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Lawsuit claims smoking ban is unconstitutional

Tavern owners in Columbus have filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping a smoking ban from taking effect on Jan. 31.

Envrionmental judge Harland Hale Wednesday set a January 20th trial date for the case but refused to grant an injunction to stop the ban from taking effect. The suit by the Columbus Bar Owners Political Action Committee contends the ban approved by voters Nov. 2 is unconstitutionally vague because it subjects business owners -- but not smoking patrons -- to citations and fines.

At the same time, the group -- anticipating a long legal battle -- began working toward a May vote on a proposal to exempt bars from the law.

The bar owners' attorney, Phil Harmon, says the lawsuit's arguments are similar to those used by opponents of a smoking ban in Toledo.

Courts there have upheld the law and the suit now is before the Sixth U-S Circuit Court of Appeals.

Toledo ban opponents had more luck with voters, getting approval to amend the ban to exempt bars and restaurants with nine or fewer employees.

The Columbus bar owners plan to circulate petitions to seek the May vote.