New ‘smoke-free’ push will clear the air

It’s one of the traditions of college life along with cramming for an exam at the last minute and trying to remember where your car is parked. When one goes to a bar in a college town, they expect to deal with vomiting, co-eds drunk on Bud Ice and the odor of cigarette smoke.

But if a local public health group has its way, the whiff of tobacco will no longer be found in Kent’s drinking and dining establishments.

While the Portage County Tobacco Prevention Coalition claims to want Kent a smoke-free city, that may be a bit of a misnomer. What they’re actually pushing for is an end to smoking in public buildings and certain private establishments (i.e. bars and restaurants). Obviously, if one still wished to smoke in the privacy of their own homes, there isn’t going to be a tobacco Gestapo going around and knocking on doors, and the same would almost certainly be the case with outdoor areas.

At least, that’s the way things have worked out in the other cities throughout the United States, the most prominent examples being Columbus and New York City, and we have no reason to believe that things would be different in Kent.

Of course, there will be those who oppose such a measure and their reasons are, to a point, quite understandable.

Some have argued such a ban would hurt their businesses due to smokers’ backlash as they decide to go to bars and restaurants in surrounding communities that are unaffected by the ban. This has been seen to some extent in other cities; however, such a revolt is usually offset by an up-kick in business from nonsmokers. At the end of the day, the whole thing ends up leading to a slight gain in business profits.

Another criticism is that such a rule is unenforceable as the police have, or should have, better things to do than handing out tickets for smoking violations. While this is a fairly solid point, bars and restaurants will probably just kick out anyone smoking to avoid the theoretical ire of the police, not to mention that there are actually a lot of people who won’t do something just because it’s illegal.

The major complaint, at least among students, is that it’s a violation of one’s civil liberties for the state to intervene and prevent them from smoking in a public building. If the PCTPC wanted to ban smoking altogether, the complainers would have a very good point as the state shouldn’t have the right to prevent a person from harming themselves. But this is not the case with smoking in public.

After all, secondhand smoke is generally believed to cause an increased rate of lung cancer in persons exposed to it regularly, although the amount it increases is still up for debate.

Overall, the debate boils down to someone arguing for the right to give him or herself cancer versus another person arguing for his or her right not to get cancer from the aforementioned inconsiderate jerk.

That seems to be a pretty easy decision to us.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.