Archive for Thursday, November 30, 2006

Opinion: Time to act on smoke ban

Agreement paves the way

November 30, 2006

Bonner Springs and Edwardsville need to join the growing list of cities that are banning smoking in public places.

Leawood became the latest city to add its name to the no-smoking list last Monday when it approved a comprehensive ban that takes effect Jan. 2, 2008.

Leawood joined Kansas cities Overland Park, Prairie Village and Olathe, plus Lee's Summit and Independence in Missouri.

The Leawood ordinance is similar to the one passed in Overland Park. It prohibits smoking in all enclosed places of employment, with the sole exception of tobacco shops. It allows smoking in outdoor seating areas, but bans it within 10 feet of the entrance to a building.

The tipping factor in Overland Park's decision to ban smoking apparently was an agreement between the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association and Clean Air Kansas City on the terms of a ban that could apply throughout the Kansas City area.

The agreement, natually, mirrors the ordinances enacted recently. It calls for a ban on smoking in all indoor public places and businesses effective Jan. 2, 2008, with no exemptions except for outdoor patios and courtyards and tobacco shops.

In the meantime, the word from Kansas City, Mo., is that a city committee is now studying whether to remove the so-called 85 percent "trigger" that would impose a citywide ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. Kansas City had earlier agreed to ban smoking once 85 percent of surrounding residents were under such a standard.

Even Kansas City, Kan.-Wyandotte County, with its purported "blue-collar" demographic and, presumably, higher proportion of smokers, is reported to be about to assign the issue to a standing committee.

The reason for the ban, of course, is not that smoking is "gross" or disgusting or smelly. Nor would a ban be an infringement of smokers' rights. It is strictly a public health measure. Smokers have every right to enjoy their habit as long as their lungs will stand it. What they don't have the right to do is place others' health in jeopardy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, secondhand smoke is a known --not suspected -- human carcinogen. It is also linked to a broad array of other health problems, including heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems and more frequent and severe asthma attacks in children. There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure.

So, several cities have acted, others are poised to act or at least consider action. There's no reason or need to wait any longer. The Bonner Springs and Edwardsville councils should go ahead and enact a ban along the lines of those enacted in Overland Park, Leawood and Olathe.

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