Monday, July 10, 2006

I couldn't let the Hays Daily News editorial reprinted in Saturday's Traveler pass without comment. The News editorialist opines that despite scientific findings that secondhand smoke is harmful, Kansas should not join seventeen other states and hundreds of towns, cities, and counties in banning smoking in public places.

The writer cites only two arguments against a statewide smoking ban: that it "would affect many businesses' bottom line" and that it "would restrict the personal liberties of smokers". These two bogus arguments are so inane that it's amazing to see them still dragged out whenever this subject comes up.

Apologists for public smoking always assert that forbidding it would put bars and restaurants out of business. Has it wiped out bars and restaurants in states which already have bans on public smoking? The last time I was in California, I had no trouble finding places to eat, and there still seemed to be plenty of thriving saloons. In fact, it was a pleasure to dine without the nasty stench of cigarette fumes drifting from a feckless "smoking section".

The old red herring of "smokers' rights" is my favorite foolish argument. You have a perfect right to kill yourself. You're welcome to check out quickly, using dynamite to splatter yourself all over the countryside, or you can commit suicide at a more leisurely pace with poison gas. What you do NOT have a right to do is take innocent bystanders down with you by setting off your dynamite in a bar or infesting a restaurant with your toxic fumes. Want to demonstrate your love for your kids by assaulting them with poison gas? OK, but do it at home, not where other people are eating and workers are trying to earn a living.

So seventeen states have done away with smoking in public places. No doubt Kansas will do it too. The only question is whether we're smart enough to be the eighteenth state. Or will we dawdle until we're fiftieth?