Spectator Editorial: Up in smoke
When two issues as important as public health and small business survival collide, there is bound to be disagreement.
According to an article in the March 27 issue of The Spectator, the Eau Claire City Council voted 7-4 in favor of a citywide ordinance banning smoking in public places. The bill requires smokers to go outside any public buildings, most notably bars, if they want to light up.
The question here is not whether eliminating smoking from places, such as bars, is good for the public – it’s a health hazard for both patrons and employees to breathe in secondhand smoke every day. But what is most contentious is whether the City Council needed to pass this resolution as quickly as it did. Eau Claire residents should have been given more warning as to when the vote was occurring. Also, local businesses are only being given until July 1 to prepare for the ban’s enforcement. The City Council should have taken more time in order to better allow Eau Claire citizens to weigh in on the ban.
The Spectator editorial board was split on the subject of whether the City Council was correct in passing the ordinance before a statewide ban is enacted. Half the board thought it sent a message to the state government showing there is support for a statewide ban while the other half thought it was unfair for local businesses that can’t have patrons smoke inside. It came down to the argument of what was more important in the short term – the health of the public or the health of local businesses. Some argued the ban will remove the health hazard quicker than a statewide ban would have, but others said now it means smokers will likely go to neighboring cities with businesses that don’t have a similar ban.
Despite the division, the editorial board concluded that there needs to be a statewide ban on smoking in public places sooner rather than later. This will level the playing field for businesses across the state as well as protect the public’s health.