Argument against smoking ban doesn’t hold up

Published 7:15 pm Tuesday, September 17, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

If those who oppose a smoking ban in public spaces in Boyle County want to be taken seriously, they must come up with much better arguments for why they feel that way.

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Most of what you hear a lot of today from the pro-public-smoking camp is along the lines of “the government shouldn’t tell businesses what they can and can’t do.”

That argument is absolute garbage for numerous reasons.

For starters, the optics of such an argument are terrible. It’s the same line of flawed reasoning used by segregationists during the Civil Rights Era to try to keep black people out of restaurants. There are obvious and large differences between the situations — we are not comparing the two in terms of morality, but in terms of logic: If there’s a case to be made for allowing smoking, then supporters must find a better cornerstone on which to build their case.

It is simply not the case that private businesses are — or should be — totally free of government regulations. We already require buildings to meet construction standards so they are safe to be inside. We require businesses to operate in certain zones and prohibit them in others.

We inspect businesses that serve food and drinks on a regular basis and hold them to high standards of cleanliness to ensure their food is safe to consume. We even shut down businesses if they aren’t clean or safe enough.

What is the difference between ensuring the health and cleanliness of the food you eat and the health and cleanliness of the air you breathe? It’s a fine distinction at best, and the arguments from those who still don’t want a smoking ban certainly don’t address it.

The public health problems created and perpetuated by allowing smoking at places of public accommodation can easily be compared to the public health problems that would be created if restaurants weren’t required to use potable water or sanitize their dishes.

If you say it should be up to businesses as to whether they want their air to be safe to breathe, why shouldn’t it then also be up to them whether their buildings are structurally sound and their chicken is cooked all the way through?

We have yet to hear anyone opposed to a smoking ban address such questions.

Meanwhile, those in favor of a smoking ban have a host of reasons for that support, backed up by evidence and research.

Public smoking bans are not only good for public health, but good for business. Employees in smoke-free workplaces get sick less and are more productive; smoke-free businesses do more business; the general population in a smoke-free community has fewer heart attacks. Also, health care costs and smoking rates go down, both of which mean the average person on the street has more disposable income in their pocket. At the same time, tourism revenue goes up.

Add to all that the skyrocketing popularity of vaping among teens, which creates a new sense of urgency to smoking bans. The health gains made over the past three decades could be lost in a single generation if nothing is done.

What do those opposed to a public smoking ban have to say about any of that? Nothing. It seems they are simply afraid of change and want to play the “government is bad” card in order to end all debate and thought on the topic.

Here is our challenge to those who continue to stand against a county-wide smoking ban in Boyle County: Find a better argument and actually address the points made by those in favor of a ban. If you can’t do that, then get out of the way and let things change for the better.