Commonwealth Journal

January 12, 2012

Smoking ban is a good idea

By JEFF NEAL, CJ News Editor
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

Government entities take a lot of slack when they do something that effects us in a negative way. Usually raising taxes is the greatest of all sins.
So let’s give them credit when they do something that’s in our best interest.
Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler and Somerset City Council is considering an ordinance that’s both incredibly bold, but desperately needed — an ordinance that would ban smoking from enclosed public buildings within the city.
It’s bold because politicians cringe at “taking away the rights of others.”
But I’ve never looked at smoking as a human rights issue. Pure and simple, it’s a health and safety issue.
The debate on second-hand smoke is pretty much over. It’s no longer conjecture: Exposure to second-hand smoke can increase the risk of serious illnesses.
So why should anyone have the right to smoke around you or your children?
Do we let people fire off guns in a restaurant? Of course not.
Don’t we have laws that control the amount of alcohol a person can drink before he’s legally intoxicated? Sure. And when those limits are surpassed, there are consequences.
So why would we allow smokers to light up in public places, among folks who not only don’t want to inhale their smoke, but could suffer from it?
Business owners often fear a backlash from the public when laws of this type are contemplated.
But usually, there are very few negative effects.
People will still eat in smoke-free restaurants. They will still shop at smoke-free malls and still drink at smoke-free bars.
Lexington bar owners griped long and hard when a smoking ban passed in Fayette County several years ago. But they survived.
Pulaski County restaurants which have voluntarily gone smoke-free not only have survived, but have received kudos for their efforts to provide a safe dining environment.
I think our government not only has the right, but has the duty, to protect its citizens — particularly small children and the elderly — from these dangers.
Just last year, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo introduced a bill that would have banned smoking from cars when children are riding in them.
Our General Assembly didn’t have the courage to do what’s right for Kentucky’s children.
Let’s hope Somerset City Council has the guts — not to mention good sense — to do what’s right by all of its citizens by supporting the smoking ban.