Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

April 12, 2013

Smoke ban should pass

— It’s too bad Indiana lawmakers tacked so many exemptions to the statewide smoking ban during last year’s legislative session.

Nevertheless, the law — in effect since July 1 — represents a step forward for the health of all Hoosiers.

Some still argue such a ban tramples on the rights of smokers. They argue smoking is a matter of personal freedom.

But it’s time Howard County implements a county-wide smoking ban — one that’s tougher than the City of Kokomo’s and includes all bars, taverns and fraternal organizations. A nicotine habit is bad not only for the health of the smoker but for the health of everyone sharing the same air.

The health threat of secondhand smoke is no longer a matter of debate. The U.S. Surgeon General in 2006 found overwhelming scientific evidence that thousands of Americans die every year from cancer and heart disease because of exposure to secondhand smoke.

The Institute of Medicine in 2009 released an analysis of 11 studies showing a drop in the rate of heart attacks in the year after smoking bans were adopted.

These findings alone should be enough to convince county officials to impose an across-the-board ban. We urge them not to bow to the claims of businesses arguing a ban would hurt them financially, just as state lawmakers did last year.

At the top of the list of those businesses were the state’s casinos, which argued a smoking ban would hurt not only their profits but state tax revenues. They cited a report finding Illinois casinos saw a 22 percent drop in revenue after a ban took effect in that state.

Advocates of the smoking ban disputed that report. They claimed there were other factors contributing to that drop in business, and they argued that while smokers might be turned off by a ban, nonsmokers might actually come in greater numbers if they did not have to cope with the smoke from someone else’s cigarette.

Then again, an across-the-board smoking ban, with no exceptions for bars or fraternal organizations, would render that entire argument moot.

County officials worried how voters might react to a ban would do well to note the results of a survey last year by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. That survey found 71 percent of likely Republican primary voters supported a comprehensive ban, and nearly that many favored a law with no exemptions.

It’s time for action. It’s time for a county-wide ban — no exceptions.