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Column: Banning smoke inside beneficial to public health


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I an all too familiar exercise, some members of the Columbus City Council appear to be reeling in their enthusiasm for a comprehensive ban on smoking throughout the city.

Earlier this year, it appeared that momentum was growing for finishing the job that a previous City Council had started when members adopted a partial ban in 2007. That council had been presented with a proposal for an overall ban but following a strenuous campaign from smokers and some business owners, excluded such entities as bars and private clubs.

The Indiana General Assembly followed a similar path earlier this year when it stopped short of including private clubs and bars in its law.

Although many observers appear to accept that there will eventually be a total ban, opponents of such measures have continued their fight.

Earlier this month a number of bar owners and patrons argued their case vehemently before the City Council. At least one council member who originally had been leaning to a total ban admitted he was now conflicted.

That pattern was in play here in 2007 and earlier this year at Indianapolis when the General Assembly appeared on the verge of a total ban.

The current debate appears to have evolved into a discussion about implementation of a ban and how far such an edict should be taken. Thrown into the mix has been the contention that owners and patrons should be free to make their own choice rather than to have something forced upon them.

Conversely, proponents of the ban have also pointed to choice as an argument, noting that while employees of smoking establishments have a choice it is only between working in a smoke-filled environment or finding another job.

While emotional defenses of a position are for the most part admirable qualities, it is important that elected officials not let the intensity of those holding the positions be the deciding factor in a final decision.

There are some instances when the natural urge to find ways to please comes into conflict with doing what is right. Protecting public health represents one of those instances.

While some council members voiced understandable concern about how a ban that might go so far as to encompass all outdoor public spaces would be administered, there should be no question about the need to at least make the air clean in applicable enclosed spaces.

This is an issue on which compromise or half measures will not suffice. It will undoubtedly anger some people, but it is imperative that the City Council finish the job that was started five years ago and ban all indoor smoking in public places.

The health of the public depends upon it.

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