Girl's burned eye prompts questions about state fair smoking

11:14 AM, Sep 4, 2012   |    comments
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FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. - A 2-year-old girl is recovering from burns after she was accidently poked in the eye by a lit cigarette at the Minnesota State Fair.

Sierra Kleindl was walking away from the state fair parade on Saturday with her family, when a woman standing nearby lowered her cigarette. "She swung it right into my daughter's eyeball," said Sierra's mother, Melissa Kleindl. "She started screaming and crying right away and I just knew what had happened."

Medics were dispatched and Sierra was taken to Regions Hospital. It would be 18 hours before she could keep her burned eye open again. After a follow-up check-up by an eye specialist on Sunday, Sierra returned with her family to her home in Graceville, Minnesota.

Sierra is expected to make a full recovery, but her parents can't help but wonder why smoking is still allowed in so many areas of the fairgrounds. "With the thousands of people that are at the fair, I guess we feel there maybe should be designated smoking areas," said her mother

It's no longer a wild suggestion. Several of the state's university campuses are now smoke-free and smoking at Valley Fair Amusement park is limited to designated areas.

"It's something we discuss through the year," said fair General Manager Jerry Hammer.

Smoking has been banned in fair buildings since the 1970s and in entertainment seating areas for at least a decade, but Hammer says the difficulty of enforcement has slowed further prohibitions.

"There's 320 acres and we'll have upwards to 200,000 people here on the biggest days, so exactly how do you do this?"

But is it worth a try? "You'd probably be losing money," said Sean Dees, a smoker who lit up on the fairgrounds on Monday.

Shelby Dahl disagrees. "With all the smoke that's coming from the (food) stands to start with, I think it would be good idea to go smoke free."

Sierra's family believes it's time to at least have the debate. "This could have been way more serious, this could have affected her vision for the rest of her life," said her mom.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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