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Editorial: Smoking bans

Thursday, August 3, 2006

The wave of efforts to regulate smoking in public places is growing bigger across the nation. In recent days Southeast Missouri Hospital and Stooges restaurant in Jackson have announced they will no longer allow smoking. The hospital's ban -- it hasn't allowed indoor smoking for several years -- extends to outside areas.

Most of the smoking curbs nationwide have come as the result of government action. There are 4,600 municipalities that have smoking limits of some kind, ranging from outright no-smoking regulations in public places to limited prohibitions in certain public buildings or businesses.

The recent moves in Cape Girardeau to limit smoking were made without government sanction. That may well be the best way to address this issue, particularly when government at all levels is the beneficiary of millions of dollars of revenue from tobacco taxes. Missourians will vote in November on a proposal to increase cigarette taxes by 470 percent. Such a move is intended to curb smoking, but it's more likely to generate even more government revenue, if it passes.

Secondhand smoke

The debate over the ill effects of smoking has settled on the side of those who think the use of tobacco is the cause of life-threatening illnesses. A newer debate over secondhand smoke is raising more questions, with the U.S. surgeon general coming down firmly on the side of medical authorities who believe it is as dangerous as smoking itself.

Any institution, government or not, that is responsible for the public's health would be prudent to find ways to prevent smoking and the use of other tobacco products.

Better still is making a decision on smoking without having the government force such action by legislative mandate.

Going too far?

A business owner was featured on "60 Minutes" a few months ago after telling his employees they would be fired if they smoked, even in the privacy of their own homes. He cited the cost of providing health care and lost production time related to smoking.

Going too far? Some would certainly think so, including some of the business owner's employees who were ultimately terminated.

As bans on smoking continue to widen, look for more debates about the use of tobacco. Government's reluctance to prohibit the growing of tobacco means the potential health risks associated with smoking will only go away when there no longer is a market for tobacco products.


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