Smoking ban snuffs out bar owners’ rights

Editorial Board

It has been suggested recently that the city of Kent look into a non-smoking policy for the bars and restaurants in the community.

This is a bad idea.

It’s not a poor idea because smoking is cool or healthy. According to the anti-tobacco Web site, “Over 50,000 people a year die from secondhand smoke in the United States alone.” Statistics from the site also show that “about one in every five deaths in the United States can be attributed to tobacco products.”

It’s not a poor idea because smoking and the diseases it causes don’t affect health care costs — they certainly do. According to the Web site, the total annual public and private health care expenditures caused by smoking amount to $89 billion.

The plan to ban smoking is bad because it takes a decision that should be that of an owner of a bar or restaurant and gives it to the government.

Currently, all of the bars in downtown Kent allow smoking. And yes, some people, particularly non-smokers, do complain about it.

Yet these same people can be seen continually going into the smoky bars they whine about.

Perhaps a good suggestion for people who don’t want smoking in the bars and restaurants they frequent is to put their money where their mouth is and make the conscious choice not to patronize places that allow smoking.

Eventually, if enough people chose the non-smoking establishment over Ray’s Place or Mugs, the business owners would begin to feel a significant bite out of their revenue and possibly change the smoking policies in the establishments they run.

However, if the government starts putting its fingers in the pot and messing with the delicate ingredients that make the rare stew of business success, what happens next could be tragic.

For example, Toledo enacted a non-smoking ban for bars and restaurants in 2003. According to the article “Dead Men Drinking” by Pete Kotz in last week’s issue of Scene magazine, this ban was horrible for the bars of Toledo. More than 20 bars in Toledo closed the year following the start of the ban. Patrons starting flocking in droves to nearby Michigan (where smoking is allowed in bars). Inevitably, many bar owners decided to ignore the ban in order to save the businesses that were their livelihood. Then the police started patrolling the bars for smokers. It was a bad scene.

Toledo voted against a good portion of the non-smoking ban a year later.

Perhaps nothing that drastic would happen in Kent. After all, this is a college town, and there’s a good chance that people’s desire to drink and socialize would trump the urge for a cigarette.

However, a greater concern is raised if the ban passes. Where would the government stop? Should there be a ban on perfume/cologne because Bath and Body Works gives some people headaches? Should there be a ban on Twinkies because Americans are becoming fat? Who should be the decision maker?

The government needs to stop making choices that are not its to make.

Let the customer make the decision, and then the owner will make his or hers.

It’s the American way.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board, whose members are listed to the left.