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Published June 28, 2012, 09:15 PM

Statewide Smoking Ban Would Mean Closure of GF Hookah Lounge

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - A petition circulating the state to put a permanent smoking ban on the November ballot will force a Grand Forks man to close his business and he'll be out of a job.

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - A petition circulating the state to put a permanent smoking ban on the November ballot will force a Grand Forks man to close his business and he'll be out of a job.

That's because the petition language includes all workplaces and his business runs on tobacco sales.

It's estimated that secondhand smoke kills between 80 and 140 North Dakotans each year. Petition supporters say they're only fighting for the ban so other's aren't put at-risk.

But that could come at a cost for those who make a living out of it.

Drea's Hookah Lounge owner, Andy Brunette, bought the space almost three years ago to carry out his dream.

"This is like my baby, my livelihood. I've started this thing up when nobody in Grand Forks knew about hookah," Brunette said.

But if the smoking ban petition gets the roughly 13,000 signatures it needs to make the November ballot, Brunette might have to close shop.

"Effectively, they would shut me down because the majority of my income comes from actually smoking of the hookah," Brunette said.

Health care providers say saving lives is what's most important.

"Secondhand smoke is a mixture of poisons, it has thousands of chemicals in it, 69 of which are known to be cancer-causing agents so it's bad for you. It's not just an annoyance, it's a health hazard," Public Health RN Teresa Knox said.

The lounge has a ventilator which disposes the smoke outside his building. He says it doesn't affect others.

"Some nights when it gets really smoky in here and I had it off to run the AC, or the heat, I turn it on and the smoke is out of here within five minutes," Brunette said.

But still, petition supporters say it doesn't matter, there's no evidence the system is working effectively.

"It's really important when you're talking about a strip mall, if you have a hookah lounge next to a day care, there's no way you can effectively say there's absolutely no infiltration occurring," Smoke-Free North Dakota spokesperson Chelsea Matter said.

"Everyone has a right to breathe clean air," Knox said.

Brunette's crossing his fingers he'll be exempt or grandfathered in. For the meantime, he'll keep the hookahs rolling.

"I'm going to prepare myself for the worst, prepare myself for the best, just keep going business as normal just to keep my customers happy," Brunette said.

All the states surrounding North Dakota have statewide smoking bans but many of them still have hookah lounges.

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