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The Florida Supreme Court has given the green light to a ballot initiative to ban smoking in the workplace. The court ruled 7-0 on Thursday that the language on the ballot initiative meets state constitutional requirements to appear on the November ballot. By law, the language must be clear and unambiguous and limited to a single subject. The justices found that it was. The organizer of the petition drive, Orlando, Fla.-based Smoke Free for Health, still must collect close to 500,000 certifiable signatures to get the initiative on the ballot. Edie Ousley, the organization’s press secretary, says it already has 362,000 signatures that have been certified by the Florida attorney general’s office, out of a total of 629,000 signatures gathered so far. Lawyers for the tobacco industry and the Florida Restaurant Association, which represents some 3,500 restaurateurs, have tried to derail the petition drive. They argued before the Florida Supreme Court in February that the title and summary on the petition were misleading because the definition of “enclosed indoor workplace” did not indicate that smoking would be prohibited all together in restaurants. But the state supreme court dismissed that argument, saying it was “contrary to rational analysis.” “I think most Floridians understand that restaurants are also workplaces,” Ousley says. If the initiative is approved, it would exempt from the smoking ban stand-alone bars, designated guest rooms in hotels, and home businesses that don’t provide child care. Justices also rejected the opponents’ argument that the petition “fails to advise voters that smoking is already banned by law in all places of employment in common areas expected to be used by the public.” The restaurant association’s brief argued that the petition’s “title and summary suggest that there are presently no legal mechanisms in place to reduce unwanted exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.” But the court wrote that it does not “stretch logic” to presume that voters are aware that smoking is already banned in many places. “The voter must be presumed to have a certain amount of common sense and knowledge,” the justices said. Finally, the high court rejected the tobacco industry’s contention that the ballot initiative violates the constitution’s single-subject rule by “engaging in logrolling, by posing several discrete questions to voters and creating numerous collateral effects that voters would not readily anticipate.” Representatives of the restaurant association said they were disappointed in the ruling. “We still believe it’s a private property rights issue,” said Lea Crusberg, an association spokeswoman. She added that the current law that bans smoking in public places is adequate.

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