AD "If Issue 4 Wins, You Lose," a 30-second ad from Smoke Free Ohio, promoting state Issue 5 and against Issue 4. It's running with a companion ad, "Don't Be Fooled by the Smokescreen."
Tracy Sabetta, co-chairwoman of Smoke Free Ohio: "On Election Day, you will choose between two very different smoking issues, Issue 4 and Issue 5. Issue 4 is backed by big tobacco. It would keep smoke in restaurants and other places we go with our families. It would overturn 21 local smoke-free laws, and leave half a million workers exposed to smoke. Remember, Issue 4 is a constitutional amendment. If both issues pass, only Issue 4 becomes law. If Issue 4 wins, you lose. Vote no on Issue 4. Vote yes for Issue 5."
Issue 4 and Issue 5 are competing statewide smoking laws, and voter confusion is inevitable. This is the rare instance in an issue campaign where a group promoting one issue has to go negative on another issue.
Issue 5, backed by the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, is a ballot initiative that would ban smoking in almost all public places.
Issue 4 is a proposed constitutional amendment seeking to head off an outright ban through less-restrictive regulations.
Even the names of the groups are confusing. Issue 5's committee is Smoke Free Ohio; Issue 4's campaign is called Smoke Less Ohio. (Note that the space between "Smoke" and "Less" changes the meaning considerably.)
Smoke Less Ohio's coalition does include a number of tobacco interests, which are disclosed on its Web site: the Cigar Association of America, the Lorillard Tobacco Co., the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, the Retail Tobacco Dealers Association, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., Swedish Match and Swisher International.
It also includes lobbyists for nursing homes, bowling alleys, vending machines, grocers, bars, restaurants, gas stations - and 425 small businesses.
Smoke Free Ohio is correct: If Issue 4 passes - even by a small margin - it would wipe out a landslide by Issue 5. It would also block any other state or local legislation on smoking in the future. That's because Issue 4 is a constitutional amendment, and can only be repealed by a vote of the people.
Issue 4 would wipe out local laws banning smoking in 21 Ohio cities, mostly Columbus and its suburbs. The only Cincinnati-area city with a ban is Fairfield.
But if the issue is local control, it's worth noting that Issue 5 would also override Cincinnati's smoking legislation.
"To be clear, as our amendment clearly states and we've stated time and again, it would have to be in a separately enclosed area," said Jacob Evans, a lobbyist for tavern owners and spokesman for Smoke Less Ohio. "The impression that they're creating that this will occur anywhere in the restaurant is misleading. ... What Ohioans want is a common statewide policy."
Is Issue 5 a smokescreen?