Why a smoking ban makes sense | VailDaily.com

Why a smoking ban makes sense

Tamara Miller

Opponents of a local effort to ban smoking in public places say such laws invade personal privacy and personal rights.

If we are going to use that kind of argument then why not go ahead and make drunken driving legal? After all, alcohol and cigarettes are both legalized drugs that can harm users and those around them.

Opponents are right in arguing it’s not the government’s place to tell people what to do with their bodies. If people want to smoke and drink, then fine. Hurting others in the process, however, is not fine.

According to the American Lung Association, secondhand smoke is blamed for causing about 3,000 lung cancer deaths and 35,000 heart disease deaths in nonsmokers each year.

That’s right, nonsmokers.

Seems their right to be healthy, to be happy, is being invaded all the time.

Eagle Countians now have a chance this November to tell their government that letting secondhand smoke harm others is not OK. If enough Eagle Countians vote “yes,” the Board of County Commissioners plan to enact a ban that would make smoking illegal inside bars and restaurants in Edwards, Eagle-Vail, Wolcott and on both the ski mountains. Officials in Avon say they plan to enact a ban of their own, if enough of their own citizens approve the ban. Other town officials are mulling the idea over, too.

Bans like this already exist all over Colorado. Snowmass has a ban, as do Summit and Boulder counties. Many bar owners here like the idea of a ban because it would do what they are unwilling to do: possibly sacrifice some income in the name of public health. Nevermind that there have been reports from Summit County restaurants and beyond that banning smoking didn’t hurt their sales, and even helped in some cases.

Yes, there are some bars and restaurants that already ban smoking, and certainly those most concerned about secondhand smoke make a point to frequent those businesses. And while that might take care of patrons, it doesn’t take care of the hundreds of restaurant and bar workers we have in this valley who work in smoke-filled establishments everyday. It’s pretty easy to be choosy about where you want to spend your money. It’s not so easy to be so choosy when you need to make money – especially in a place where so many of our jobs are for servers, cooks and hosts.

It’s particularly troubling because restaurant and bar employees are even more susceptible to the dangers of secondhand smoke. The levels of cancer-causing chemicals in restaurants and bars are typically two to five times higher than in homes with smokers, and two to six times higher than in those few office workplaces that still allow employees to smoke inside, according to the lung association. What about the privacy of those employees? What about their rights?

Smokers will still be able to puff away outdoors, in their homes, in their cars. Their privacy will remain intact, regardless of if this ban passes.

Without a ban however, the lion’s share of our bars and restaurants will continue to be filled with smoke, putting everyone’s health at risk. No one should have the right to do that. VT

Tamara Miller can be reached for comment at tmiller@vailtrail.com.

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