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Editorial: City Council demonstrated leadership in smoking ban

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THE comprehensive indoor smoking ban given a first-reading approval by the Columbus City Council last week was seven years in the making. In 2005 an earlier City Council adopted a partial ban, stopping short of a total one by exempting bars and private clubs.

Those exemptions will be removed under the new ordinance. The law will go into effect when it’s passed on the second reading, but clubs and bars that currently allow smoking can continue to do so until June 1, 2013, so that they can develop new business plans.

While the 2005 ordinance was regarded as an enormous step forward in protecting the health of the community, it was nevertheless recognized as a partial measure. Last week, the 2012 City Council finished the job.

It was not an easy decision for individual council members to make. Just as in the 2005 hearings that preceded the adoption of the partial ban, emotions ran high, and proponents and opponents of the total ban marshaled their forces to appear before the council.

Not surprisingly, a number of audience members cast the debate in economic terms, some bar owners projecting a dire future for their establishments if patrons were not allowed to smoke on the


Ironically, that was one of the arguments voiced by Debbie Kramer, former owner of a downtown restaurant, when she was one of the more outspoken opponents of the partial ordinance in 2005.

However, Kramer gave 2012 council members a new message last week, coming out in support of the total ban and suggesting that any financial impact on her business was negligible.

“Going nonsmoking did not hurt my business,” she said. “People go to your bars or your restaurants, because they like the food, they like the service.”

While the potential economic impact of the ban on the affected clubs and bars obviously merited consideration, the bottom line on this measure has to be the protection of public health — most particularly in this case, the health of those who work in such establishments.

While some smoking proponents have questioned the validity of the arguments that secondhand smoke poses a health hazard, a significant number of local health care professionals have provided conclusive testimony that such is, indeed, the case.

For the government of the city of Columbus to continue to condone situations in which the health of its citizens was in jeopardy would have been inexcusable.

While a number of bar owners and their employees who spoke out against the ban believe they will suffer economic consequences, those fears could be exaggerated. Witness the testimony of Kramer, a former opponent of the smoking ban.

What is certain is that a number of people who had been compelled to work in smoking environments as a part of their employment can now look forward to a healthier workplace.

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