As a single guy living alone, I tend to eat out a lot. My favorite culinary venues are in Indianapolis and Greenwood.
Until a couple of weeks ago, the question I was asked almost every time I ate out was, “Do you want smoking or non-smoking?” What a relief it is not to have to answer that question anymore. The long-awaited smoking bans took effect this month.
A growing number of Indiana communities have passed ordinances prohibiting smoking in public buildings, including restaurants. Bloomington led the way several years ago. Since then, Indianapolis, Greenwood, Columbus, Fort Wayne, Carmel, and Shelbyville are among those communities that have passed smoking bans.
Smoking bans are supported by a large majority of citizens, even many smokers. Smokers view it as another excuse to quit the nasty habit.
Some see smoking bans as just one more example of government’s encroachment on a person’s privacy. Normally, I would agree with such sentiments. I oppose the seatbelt laws for the same reason.
However, choosing not to wear seatbelts endangers only the person making the choice not to wear them. Laws requiring seatbelts restrict a person’s right to choose to take the risk. If smoking affected only the smoker, I would oppose smoking bans, too.
But secondhand smoke is not only annoying to the non-smoker, it is dangerous. Smokers have the right to smoke, but they do not have the right to smoke in public places where their bad habit adversely affects those around them.
The anti-smoking ordinances in place in Indianapolis and Greenwood go a long way toward protecting children and non-smokers from secondhand cigarette smoke. But in all honesty they do not go far enough.
In Indianapolis, for example, bowling alleys are exempt from enforcing the ban. There are lots of children at bowling alleys, since bowling is a family game.
The smoking ban also does not apply to outdoor venues. That might seem to make sense because there is always fresh air blowing in when you’re outdoors.
But I’ve attended outdoor concerts and other events where people were freely smoking all around me, or up-wind from me. It wasn’t much different from being in an enclosed space.
Initially, the proposed smoking ban in Indianapolis included outdoor venues. But the original bill was in danger of dying unless the changes were made. The compromise was a good one, but it is unfortunate that compromises have to be made when it comes to the protection of public health.
Other communities that are considering anti-smoking ordinances, such as Franklin, should take that into consideration. The issue is not about a person’s right to smoke. It is only about where they have that right. If it is a public space, even an outdoor one, nobody should have the right to smoke there.
And, although a hodgepodge of varied anti-smoking ordinances around the state is better than not having any smoking bans at all, a statewide unified ban would be far better.
The Indiana General Assembly is not considering a statewide smoking ban this session. It’s too late for such a bill to be introduced this year.
But next year, with the start of a new General Assembly, it would be a perfect time to introduce legislation that would ban cigarette smoking in all public places statewide.
There is very little likelihood that small towns with mostly Mom-and-Pop restaurants would consider adopting anti-smoking ordinances. A state law would cover such small towns and rural areas.
Once upon a time, and not too long ago, smoking was even allowed in patient rooms in hospitals. It was allowed on airline flights. In fact, there were few places one could go to escape the vile stench of cigarette smoke.
Today, the indoor air is much cleaner. But in a few years, it could be we will look back on today’s smoking climate and wonder why we even allowed it in public at all, even outside.