Eau Claire, WI - housing smoking ban leads to national controversy..

August 2, 2009 - Back on July 21, 2009 we reported an Eau Claire homeowners association had voted to outlaw smoking in the owner-occupied residential complex - these are twin homes, or each side of a duplex-style home. Because of their close proximity, smoke from one unit could flow into the one next door. (Homeowners Association - outlaws smoking inside of homes..)

Julian Emerson - the reporter that wrote the story knew right away the topic had the potential to ignite local controversy but little did he realize the action by the Fairfax Parkside Homeowners Association would fan the flames of the intense debate between smoking advocates and opponents on a national scale.

Within hours of publishing the story responses from around the U.S. began to flood my e-mail and telephone voice mail. Initially he wondered how so many people from California to Massachusetts and points in between had read my story. Emerson discovered there was a good explanation.

The story made its way to The Associated Press, then to the Drudge Report, a conservative online news site, where it reached a nationwide audience. From there the story took on an even larger life as conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh discussed it.

Most people contacting Emerson about the topic were upset the regulation dictated rules to people living in their own homes.

In typical fashion, Rush Limbaugh did his best to stir up his supporters. Emerson didn't hear the segment in which he addressed the matter but found a transcript online where Limbaugh likened the smoking ban to "a communist idea" from somewhere other than Washington, D.C. Limbaugh and people calling his show apparently bashed the ban and the man who proposed it, Dave Hanvelt, the Fairfax Park Homeowners Association president.

For several days afterward, Hanvelt was overwhelmed with media requests seeking an explanation for why he proposed the no-smoking rule. Among them, he did an interview with Fox News, talked with an Ohio newspaper and was a guest on the "Big John and Cisco" call-in radio program on WIND-AM Chicago.

The strong sentiment against regulating smoking didn't surprise Emerson. he had heard plenty of similar views espoused by smokers' rights advocates both before and after the Eau Claire City Council adopted an ordinance in March 2008 prohibiting smoking in city taverns and other indoor public places. The ban took effect July 1 last year.

For more read the reference article.

Reference: Limbaugh, others short on smoking ban facts, Julian Emerson, Leader Telegram (Serving Eau Claire, WI and the Chippewa Valley Since 1881), 8/1/2009.