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Column: Enact ban on smoking in Columbus

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THERE is a simple bottom line on the issue of a total ban on smoking in the city of Columbus.

How long can city officials allow workers to enter workplaces which pose a risk to their health?

When considering all of the arguments which opponents of a proposed comprehensive ban have raised, none rises to the level of this single fact: The health and lives of Columbus residents are at stake.

Yet, elected council members — in this and the previous administration — have consistently backed away from a total commitment to the good health of their constituents.

The comprehensive smoke ban has been repeatedly brought before this and previous city councils. Half measures were taken, but when it came to including bars and private clubs into the overall approach, members stepped back from the brink.

Last week, the majority of the Council took another step back, tabling a decision on the matter until the upcoming meeting of the council Nov. 20.

Proponents of a comprehensive ban were upset at the decision and disputed the notion by some council members that a compromise could be struck with bar owners.

That proposed compromise would “grandfather” bars that currently allow smoking but prohibit any new bars from allowing it. Private clubs would have to abide by an existing state law, which requires them to have separate smoking and nonsmoking areas.

Even if the compromise were to be adopted, those working in current smoking bars still would encounter unsafe conditions.

It is as if the four members of the council who voted for the tabling action put a lesser value on the health of those who work in bars than those who work in now-regulated restaurants.

That notion was echoed by Dr. David Wilson, a Columbus pulmonologist, who observed that permitting smoking in bars would be discriminatory against its workers because workers in other settings would be protected by the ordinance.

As Dr. Wilson said, “This is a dangerous situation to put yourselves in.”

The majority of the City Council might believe that their compromise is an acceptable plan.

Since when is a dangerous work environment acceptable?

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