Smoking Ban

In a little more than a week, three elected officials will vote on whether to add bars, taverns and private clubs to the list of businesses where smoking cigarettes is prohibited in Delaware County.

Before that happens, there will be a hearing where smoking cigarettes ban proponents and opponents can state their views on the subject.

Don't expect any surprises to come out of that June 6 meeting, and don't expect a tougher smoking cigarettes ordinance to pass because two of the three commissioners have said they will not support an ordinance extending the smoking cigarettes ban. Government's reach has its limits.

Advocates for smoking cigarettes will win this round because they make a compelling point that government should have its limits. And states that have enacted a total ban -- Michigan and Pennsylvania -- have seen a mixed bag of falling liquor sales, employee layoffs -- and cleaner, healthier air. In Wisconsin, however, studies show an increase in liquor sales.

But the bottom line is this: Indiana needs to level the playing field and enact a comprehensive smoking cigarettes ban that includes everybody. That means no exemptions for casinos, private clubs, bars or nursing home. No smoking cigarettes. Period. The health of workers and patrons is just too important.

For the past five years, a bill to do just that has been introduced in the Indiana Legislature, only to die a quick death. This year, the bill advanced to a Senate committee, but it was so loaded with exemptions that even the American Cancer Society could not endorse it.

We think it's a matter of if, not when, a proper bill will be on the record.

In the meantime, enacting a wider ban in Delaware County would go a long way toward improving the health of our citizens. And while far from perfect, it would also begin to close the discrepancies and loopholes in the existing ordinance.

The health hazards of secondhand smoke cigarettes are well documented, and the debate over whether they are serious is over. Smoking restrictions have now become a matter of economic policy, with employers wanting a pool of workers who are nonsmokers. That means less time lost due to smoking cigarettes-related illnesses, lower health-insurance premiums and health-care costs borne by government.

It's proper for government to intervene in private business to protect public health.

That's not to say anyone can guarantee that a partial smoking cigarettes ban will come at no cost to bars and taverns.

When Fort Wayne enacted a ban, bar business shifted to nearby New Haven, resulting in some Fort Wayne watering holes closing.

And local bar and tavern owners point out that a drop-off in business will affect bar suppliers, coin venders and even bands booked to play. Those are real fears because owning and operating a bar is not a high profit business. But those fears lessen with geography, which is why a countywide ban will mitigate some of the pain for bar owners.

A countywide ban may, indeed, prompt die-hard smokers to drive across county lines, likely to Madison County (casino). The high cost of gasoline and engaging in the risky practice of drinking and driving might keep some of those people closer to home. But that's purely speculation.

Commissioners Todd Donati and Larry Bledsoe are likely to vote against the ordinance. Don Dunnuck in favor. Delaware County has the opportunity to become a leader in the state by enacting a ban. And because the county often ranks low in overall quality of life and health issues, commissioners have a duty to protect every citizen's health.

And if they refuse, as we've editorialized before, the momentum is on the side of enacting a statewide ban, likely sooner than later.

It's time local officials complete the process and enact a total smoking cigarettes ban.