If Ohio voters are given the chance to vote on a proposed statewide smoking ban, let’s hope our fellow citizens take the time to educate themselves on the big picture.
The proposed ban, unlike the local ordinance, prohibits smoking in all public buildings. It allows exemptions for private clubs, but not bars, bingo halls and bowling centers, as Toledo’s ban does.
Smoking is not illegal. Unhealthy and expensive, but not illegal. If an American business owner wants to operate an establishment that allows smokers the freedom to smoke, why should their decision be overridden by people who aren’t patronizing those places anyway?
In our Jan. 18 cover story, ”Where there’s smoke,” several local bar and restaurant owners expressed their frustration with the proposed ban. Many of them described the impact of the local restrictions as ”extreme” and detrimental to their business.
We also spoke with Stu Kerr, a former health commissioner in Findlay and the Northwest Ohio campaign coordinator for SmokeFree Ohio, the leading proponent of the ban. Kerr dismissed the bar and restaurant owners’ concerns: ”They’ll bring up property rights argument. They’ll bring up economic arguments … it’s bullshit.”
Any group that dismisses economic arguments and property rights must be held in suspicion; if Kerr can discount these bedrocks of business so easily, he’s trampling on precious entrepreneurial principles.
Sharon Kuhnle, owner of Twin Oaks Bowling Center on West Sylvania Avenue, said it best: ”We live in a free society, and we’re discussing a legal product. This needs to be left up to the business owner. Let the business owner run his or her business as they know it should be.”
There’s no argument from us that first- and secondhand smoke is deadly. Our solution is not to ban smoking from every corner of the city; our solution is to avoid places where smoking pollutes the air. That’s a personal decision. That’s how the free market works.
Let business owners decide this issue, not reactionary zealots.