Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Say it ain't so St. Jo!

This Tuesday, St. Joseph County Council voted 7-2 against a proposed smoking ban. The ban would have expanded upon the 2006 county ban, which still allowed smoking in designated, enclosed areas in bars and restaurants and allowed private clubs to set there own policy, to make all such establishments smoke-free.

I come from Minnesota, so I am sometimes surprised when I travel because it has been a while since I have had to request non-smoking seating.

In Minnesota smoking has been completely banned from restaurants, bars, and the like since 2007 (under the Freedom to Breathe Act). In Minnesota, it was decided that the public and employees of bars and restaurants deserved to be free from the effects of second hand smoke. All indoor, public places in Minnesota are refreshingly smoke-free.

I know that I personally will not patronize any establishments where I risk exposure to second-hand smoke.

I remember the debate in 2007, essentially the same debate occuring now in St.Joseph County and other parts of Indiana. I remember bar owners like those quoted by WNDU saying that the ban would "murder" their business. I don't remember Veterans groups expressing opposition, but it is quite possible they did.

I can understand, somewhat, St. Joseph County officials not taking the IUPU survey into full account because it is a survey of hypothetical public opinion. Though I would argue that hypothetical public opinion transitions pretty well into public opinion once you make the changes.

But look at Minnesota and other places accross the US where such bans have already been enacted. The vast majority of the public approves it, bars and restaurants still make money, American Legion and VFW organizations are still there.

The fact is, smoking bans don't "murder" anyone's business. In fact, smoking bans have been shown both to NOT negatively affect profits and to sometimes result in an increase in revenue.

I was in Minnesota from 2007 to 2010; the bar and restaurant owners stop complaining pretty quickly when they see how much people enjoy eating out without risking lung cancer.

Smokers do have the right to smoke, though they should probably quit for the sake of their health and their families, and smoking is legal. However, because second-hand smoke presents such a great health risk, smoking should be reasonably restricted.

It is legal to consume alcohol, but not to do so while driving. This just makes sense and saves lives.

It is legal to smoke, but it should not be legal to do so in places where the lives of others are put at risk.

I'm looking forward to clearing my head and clearing my lungs over spring break, and I hope the residents of South Bend have the opportunity to do the same soon.

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