Lieutenant governor candidates debate statewide smoking ban

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(Host) The candidates for lieutenant governor have different views on legislation imposing a statewide ban on smoking in bars – opinions that reflect their overall political philosophy.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The three major party candidates – incumbent Republican Brian Dubie, Democrat Cheryl Rivers and Progressive Steve Hingtgen – debated as a group for the final time at an event sponsored by the Vermont Press Association. They discussed health care, the state economy and the proper role of the lieutenant governor.

Rivers told the gathering that she supports a statewide ban on smoking in bars. A number of towns, including Burlington, passed local bans when the Legislature failed to give its approval to a statewide approach. Rivers says employees at the bars deserve to work in a smoke-free environment:

(Rivers) “I used to be a bartender myself. I used to be a cocktail waitress and I used to be sick from the smoke afterwards. And if there’s one employee – nobody can tell me that you can choose to work somewhere else because I know that where you work is not always a choice.”

(Kinzel) Dubie described himself as a strong anti-smoking person but he opposes a statewide ban because he feels individual towns should address this issue on their own:

(Dubie) “I passionately talk to children that come to our Statehouse about the evils of smoking. It’s not for lack of courage that I don’t say we should implement a statewide ban on smoking. It’s a belief that I think the towns of the state of Vermont should figure this issue out.”

(Kinzel) Hingtgen told the crowd that he’s actually changed his mind about this issue. At the start of the race he was against a statewide ban but after campaigning in a number of bars – particularly one in Winooski – he decided that a statewide ban is a good idea:

(Hingtgen) “I’ve come slowly to this whole smoking ban thing. I actually, when last asked this question, I was saying town by town. And after talking to the owner of McGee’s Pub, he said don’t do what we do with Act 60 – don’t pit town against town on this thing. He said, I’m benefiting right now because Burlington has a smoking ban and we don’t and this room is filled with smokers, right. And he doesn’t smoke and he says, I’m loving it but if Winooski passes a smoking ban then all of sudden Colchester gets my business. He says it just doesn’t make any sense.”

(Kinzel) All three candidates expressed an interest in considering ways to expand Vermont’s right to know law to make it easier for the public to have access to government documents.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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