The only thing smoking Thursday inside Skyline restaurants in Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus will be the coneys.
The Skyline Chili Corp. has agreed to go smoke-free for a day in all 32 company-owned restaurants to show its support for the American Cancer Society.
"Although we try to accommodate smokers and non-smokers, we thought it would be nice to observe the American Cancer Society's work and to show appreciation for what they do," said Megan Donahue, Skyline director of marketing.
Tobacco Free Ohio, a coalition formed out of the American Cancer Society that has in the past targeted younger smokers in its anti-smoking campaigns, asked Skyline to participate in The Ohio Department of Health's statewide campaign Eat, Breath and Dine Smoke-Free Day.
"Instead of asking a larger portion of restaurants in Cincinnati and possibly being turned down by all of them, we put in a proposal with Skyline because it was so Cincinnati-based," said Dave Ganim, Tobacco Free Ohio coordinator.
Larry Collins, director of operations at Skyline, said the company thinks the campaign is a good idea.
Although the company sees no problem in participating next year, it will not become smoke-free year-round.
"From my past experience, people will respect the rights of others for at least one day," Collins said. "But we want to make sure everyone on both sides of the fence can be accommodated and feel comfortable at our restaurants."
Skyline will distribute surveys for customer feedback.
Collins said that Skyline will look at the data and could make changes based on the comments the company gets. It could end up expanding its non-smoking area, he said.
"I think we have to look at the data," Collins said. "It might not be a major trend, but I think it's an industry thing where many restaurants are enlarging their non-smoking sections because more and more are quitting smoking."
Skyline's newest restaurant in Troy is the company's first totally smoke-free facility.
Tobacco Free Ohio wants this campaign to bring attention to the high rates of smokers in Ohio, Ganim said.
"Even though there are more people in California and New York than here in Ohio, our cancer and smoking rates are much higher," he said.
Since California put a complete ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, studies have shown improvements in respiratory health in businesses, he said.
And in New York City, where there are restrictions on smoking in restaurants, the number of new restaurants increased by six percent — a sign, Ganim said, that people want non-smoking restaurants.
But here in Ohio, any legislation to ban smoking in restaurants or bars is far from becoming a reality, he said.
Some state representatives are trying to pass legislation that would limit health departments' power in regulating smoking, Ganim said.
If the legislation passes, regulations would go before city government instead of the health department.
"The health department should be the regulatory body," he said.
This type of legislation ultimately would make it more difficult to pass any legislation that would restrict smoking in public places, Ganim said.
But even with the setbacks, Ganim said the Tobacco Free Ohio's coalition is growing.
"This issue is too important," he said. "We are not going to give up." ©