Timid state lawmakers again seem unable to pass an indoor smoking ban in public places, including bars and restaurants. Neighboring states, including Minnesota and Illinois, have passed similar bans. With a progressive tradition, Wisconsin has somehow fallen behind on this important health issue.

Most state polls show support for such a ban. The Wisconsin Tavern League, however, has been a big opponent. Result: Big lobby beats little guy constituents.

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In last week's Journal story, "Smoking law blows winds of change," some local restaurant owners expressed concern about a state smoking ban. They said it would harm bar business. Others said it overstepped government's role.

The harming business claim is dubious. States with smoking bans report no noticeable drop for most establishments. For some, it's even a plus.

That seems to be what the latest Journal online poll question shows. Perhaps to play up "no smoking" spurs a net increase of customers.

Here's what the online poll question asked: Would a statewide smoking ban in taverns make you MORE or LESS likely to patronize a bar?

As of Tuesday noon, local readers responded this way: 54% said MORE likely to patronize; 19% said LESS likely; and 28% said it would make NO DIFFERENCE either way.

The findings aren't scientific. But they may point to something: A smoking ban won't scare off most customers. In fact, it may draw more people who are repelled by tobacco smoke odor and avoid breathing carcinogenic air.

To vote in this online poll question and to catch up on local news, go to www.riverfallsjournal.com.

And may we remind everyone...

The interesting school board race takes a serious turn with a candidates forum starting at 7 p.m. Monday in the high school library.

Candidates Stacy Johnson-Myers, Rellen Hardtke and Geoff Force will answer submitted written questions from the audience. Rita Kozak will be moderator.

A fourth candidate, Peggy Foster Harris, said publicly in the Journal last week that she wants to drop out because the school board job is overwhelming. Foster Harris is expected to read a statement indicating her intent to dropout at the Monday night forum.

The River Falls Journal will have forum coverage in next week's paper. For city residents, local cable-access TV, channel 16, will rebroadcast the forum later next week at various times. The school district's cable channel will telecast live.

A note to our readers

This is the last week the Journal will publish letters that criticize a candidate who's running for public office in the April 1 general election.

Next week is the last print edition of the Journal before the election. Our policy is to give time for a candidate to respond to criticism. After next week, there is no time for rebuttal.

Space permitting, letters that support a candidate are still OK next week for publication.