Local Editorials

Our View: Smoking ban, one year later

It’s been just more than a year since Illinois enacted a smoking ban in bars and restaurants.

The measure remains controversial. Some bar owners, particularly those near the Wisconsin state line, have complained that the ban has been bad for business. However, a medical study of a similar ban in Pueblo, Colo., suggests that such bans might have a tremendous positive impact on public health.

The three-year study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a dramatic drop in heart attack hospitalization in Pueblo since a workplace smoking ban was put into place in 2003. The rate of hospitalized cases dropped 41 percent within three years of the ban being approved. There was no such drop in two neighboring communities that did not have the ban.

Critics of such bans complain that the measures restrict choice. If someone wants to smoke, they should be able to do so. People can, after all, eat unhealthy foods. Why can’t someone smoke? This argument misses the point. Smoking presents a health hazard to those who do not smoke. The CDC estimates that secondhand smoke is a significant factor in 46,000 heart disease deaths and 3,000 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers every year.

Eating an unhealthy diet won’t give the person sitting next to you heart disease. Smoking a cigarette next to someone on a daily basis can.

We don’t doubt that the statewide smoking ban has adversely affected some businesses along the state line.

However, it would be wrong to make generalizations about the impact of the ban on businesses throughout the state, especially given the recession. Lastly, without a statewide ban, individual counties and cities would have enacted their own measures. A statewide ban put all Illinois businesses on equal footing.

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