Oregon Plan to Stiffen Smoking Law Under Fire

Associated Press

The tobacco industry is mounting an expensive campaign to try to snuff out an Oregon ballot measure that would create the nation's toughest anti-smoking law.

But opponents of Measure 6 will have their work cut out for them because a recent statewide poll found strong public support for it.

Tobacco companies are using mass mailings of brochures, newsletters and voter registration kits in hopes of scuttling Measure 6 on the Nov. 8 ballot.

"We're going to spend a lot of money," at least several hundred thousand dollars, said Mark Nelson, a Salem lobbyist who's running the campaign to defeat Measure 6. "We're going to make a major effort on this."

Some Exemptions

The anti-smoking proposal would toughen the 1981 Oregon Indoor Clean Air Act, which makes most public buildings off limits to smokers except in designated smoking areas.

The new proposal, if approved, would wipe out designated smoking areas and ban smoking in virtually all indoor work areas and enclosed places frequented by the public. Violators would be subject to civil penalties of up to $250.

Smoking still would be allowed in bars and taverns, tobacco stores, and hotel and motel rooms.

The Oregon Lung Assn. led a petition drive to win a spot on the ballot for the proposal. Gerry Odisio, who is coordinating the campaign for the Lung Assn., said nonsmokers should not have to put up with secondhand smoke.

"What we're talking about is a public health measure," Odisio said. "We know that secondhand smoke causes disease, including lung cancer, in otherwise healthy nonsmokers."

That is disputed by Maura Payne, spokeswoman for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco USA.

"There's no substantive, scientific support for the contention that environmental tobacco smoke causes any significant threat to the health of nonsmokers," she said. Payne called Measure 6 a dangerous abridgement of the rights of a minority group--smokers.

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