Duluth, MN (Northland’s NewsCenter) --- It's been five years since smoking was allowed in Minnesota bars, restaurants and workplaces.
Advocates of the Freedom to Breathe Act gathered to celebrate the anniversary of the smoke free law and discussed the ways in which Northland businesses have been impacted since the start of the no-smoking policy.
The Red Star Lounge in Fitger’s complex got on board with the smoking ban about three months before the Freedom to Breathe Act went into effect in 2007.
Restaurant and bar manager, Matthew Brown says their business didn't suffer any loss when the ban went into effect. In fact, he believes the healthier environment for employees and patrons alike may have helped.
"To not have to deal with people blowing smoke on you, to not have to deal with cigarette ashes and cigarette butts on the floor, it's just a much better environment to be working in,” Brown said. “You feel physically better."
Smoke Free Advocates say the push for a smoke-free state started in Northeast Minnesota.
"The Northland should be very proud,” Pat McKone, Director of Mission Programs with the American Lung Association said. “We passed the first three local policies, Moose Lake Minnesota, and then came Duluth and then came Cloquet."
"We didn't notice any change in our business,” Brown said. “In fact, I think it was one of those things, that once people started, as we didn't have a smoky environment in there, to feel like this is a place they wanted to spend more time."
Tobacco remains the number one cause of death and disease in the state.
Still, non-smoking advocates say the ban is working.
Studies show exposure to cancer causing carcinogens fell by 85 percent and nicotine exposure decreased by 83 percent within a month after the law went into effect.
"We've learned in the last five years that as little as five minutes of exposure changes the blood vessels,” McKone said. “Twenty minutes is eating a burger and fries, it takes longer than that. For sure, the Freedom to Breathe Act has reduced those risks."
Minnesota is home to more than 600,000 smokers and each year more than 5,000 die from tobacco related causes.
Currently 29 states in the nation have smoke-free laws for restaurants and bars.