The issue: Eau Claire’s workplace smoking ban takes effect Tuesday.
Our view: This has the potential to open up some businesses for people who previously avoided them.
Two days from now, all taverns and businesses in Eau Claire will become smoke free. If you believe the polls, the 80 percent of the population that doesn’t smoke will find the change refreshing.
Hopefully, the other 20 percent or so that does smoke will adjust to the change, and the fears of businesses concerned their smoking customers will flee won’t come to pass.
Some have tried to frame this issue as Big Brother trampling on the rights of business owners to operate their establishments as they see fit by allowing those who wish to smoke to do so.
It’s been a hard sell convincing this group that government “knows what’s best for them.” Admittedly, this change may not be best for all taverns. Time will tell.
But if you’ve lived long enough and have an open mind, it’s clear that smoking is an unhealthy activity. Years spent inhaling poison catch up with many smokers. It also stands to reason that if you repeatedly sit near smokers, you’re bound to be the recipient of some fraction of those same unhealthy chemicals.
Earlier this year, the Tobacco Free Partnership of Eau Claire County collected indoor air quality readings at eight local establishments that allow smoking. Based on federal standards, the air was hazardous at all locations.
Some have debated how much secondhand smoke one needs to inhale to be put at risk. The truth is experts can’t always explain why some people get cancer and some people don’t. Some nonsmokers develop lung cancer, while some heavy smokers die of unrelated ailments.
Proof that the science isn’t there and is far from conclusive.
That may tell us that some people are genetically prone to cancer. But it’s also clear the environment is a factor for many. Specifically, smoking greatly increases your risk of cancer, heart disease and emphysema. That said, it is sound public policy to rid our air as much as possible of pollutants, including tobacco smoke.
Public policy maybe, but this is restricting a legal activity on private property,(see 5th amendment, since you are declaring their property public use how are they being compensated.)
At least some of the businesses that previously allowed smoking can turn this into a positive. For every smoking bowler upset he now has to step outside to light up, there may be a number of Scout and church groups that will consider going bowling because there is no longer smoke wafting through the alleys. The same goes for some bars with live music that up until now were shunned by those not willing to trade a night of good entertainment for smelly clothes and hair.
There likely will be a downside for the bars that lose smoking customers to establishments outside the city limits. The answer to that problem is a statewide smoking ban, and the Legislature needs to move in that direction to level the playing field, just as Minnesota, Illinois and a number of other states have done.
In the meantime, those who supported the citywide ban might want to think about patronizing some of those businesses that stand to lose the most under the new ordinance, and those business owners need to be savvy to attract customers under the new reality.
– Don Huebscher, editor
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me–
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Dr. Franklin H. Littell, a Methodist minister, college professor, Holocaust expert, scholar, and world citizen, is a frequent contributor to Christian Ethics Today.