Today's Question: Is it time to revisit the smoking ban in Columbia?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 | 11:44 a.m. CDT; updated 10:37 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It has been more than two years since a citywide smoking ban — which prohibits smoking inside any bar or restaurant — went into effect in Columbia. Two years later, many bar and restaurant owners say they are feeling the effects of the smoking ban and they’re not all positive, according to a recent report in Vox magazine.

Steve Reynolds, owner of Cody’s, told Vox his business has dropped 40 percent since the ban went into effect. He says to compensate for the losses, he has been forced to build a $5,000 deck to accommodate customers who would like to smoke.

“What upsets me is it’s a legal substance,” he says. “If they’re so set on saving people’s lives, then stop selling cigarettes inside the city limits, too.”

One of the reasons the ban was implemented was to improve the health of non-smoking customers and employees who were subject to secondhand smoke, something that is nearly impossible to regulate without banning all smoking. According to the American Journal of Public Health, there is a 24 percent increase in the risk of lung cancer among employees exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace.

And many local bar and restaurant owners and employees are pleased with the effectiveness of the ban, the Vox report said. The management at Flat Branch Pub and Brewing elected to make the restaurant a smoke-free establishment prior to the ban because they thought customers would prefer it that way. Employees responded favorably.

Others maintain that restaurant and bar employees have the choice to work in a smoking or non-smoking environment and smokers should have that same freedom.

Is it time to revisit whether or not the smoking ban is working for Columbia? Should we consider exempting bars?

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Greg Collins April 2, 2009 | 9:21 a.m.

Of course it's time to revisit it. The decision to permit smoking always rightfully belonged to the owner of the bar or restaurant -- not some silly nannies with no investment in the businesses they affect while they sit on the council pretending to be useful.

(Report Comment)
Sara Jane Maaranen April 2, 2009 | 1:49 p.m.

A bar with indoor smoking would loose my business, so it looks to me a bar looses business either way.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich April 2, 2009 | 2:27 p.m.

Sara, the question isn't whether the bar gets your business. No one cares, honestly. The question at hand is whether it's a fair rule and if the city officials even have a fair right to allow a ban like that.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich April 2, 2009 | 2:28 p.m.

And please, it's lose, not loose.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 2, 2009 | 7:07 p.m.

Keep the ban in place as it is.

(Report Comment)
Matt Y April 2, 2009 | 7:41 p.m.

I'm not a smoker, but I would like to see the decision given back to business owners if cigarettes remain legal. What one does with his/her own body and property should never be imposed by legislation.

(Report Comment)
Matt Y April 2, 2009 | 9:14 p.m.

I guess I should clarify my comments. I don't believe that the decision on cigarette's legality should be given to business owners, rather, the decision to allow smoking in their establishment if the sale of cigarettes remains allowed by law.

(Report Comment)
David Karr April 2, 2009 | 9:40 p.m.

A different model which might accomplish some of the same ends would be to erect a special business tax on leisure establishments which allow smoking. That way, entities that contribute to public ill-health and public expenses (through health costs associated with primary and secondary tobacco-smoke inhalation) would assume a fair share of the burdens they help create.

Private rights of business owners would thus be respected (i.e., they could *choose* to allow smoking), and at the same time, public expenditure could recoup some of the drain which such businesses disproportionately extract from public monies.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 2, 2009 | 10:13 p.m.

Wouldn't we also need to enact a health tax on McD's and KFC and other fast-food restaurants for the health problems some of their entrees cause? Should we tax employers who don't offer health club memberships to their employees since that category would obviously have less exercise in their lives? And we can't let bars that serve alcohol escape the tax man, right? Someone must pay!

(Report Comment)
Mike Dee April 3, 2009 | 2:55 p.m.

Oh man, I'm so glad smoking bans (and the newly tripled tobacco tax) don't affect me (even though I smoke a pack a day) anymore, since I switched to electronic cigarettes. E-cigarettes are much MUCH safer than regular cigarettes, and you can smoke them anywhere cigarettes are banned (bars, restaurants, even airplanes)!

I found this blog that helped me figure out which brand of e-cigarette I should buy. If you're considering switching over, I hope this page helps you like it helped me:

And here are some videos with information about how e-cigs work:

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 3, 2009 | 8:01 p.m.

Nicotine may have more profound impact than previously thought

Conversely, the data could also help scientists develop better treatments for various diseases. Pharmaceutical companies rely on basic research to identify new cellular interactions that can, in turn, serve as targets for potential new drugs.

"It opens several new lines of investigation," said lead author Edward Hawrot, professor of molecular science, molecular pharmacology, physiology and biotechnology at Brown University.

Source and More:

(Report Comment)
Bill Hannegan April 5, 2009 | 2:35 p.m.

From cancer epidemiologist Geoffrey Kabat’s new book, “Hyping Health Risks “:

“Starting with the 1986 reports and especially with the 1992 EPA report, suggestive evidence of a possible slight increase in the risk of lung cancer was used to give teeth to legislation restricting smoking in public places. The fact that secondhand smoke is an irritant and an annoyance, that it is accociated with increased respiratory infections in infants, and that it exacerbates pre-existing asthma and other health conditions simply does not provide the same legal or regulatory clout as the claim that it causes fatal disease. This explains why it has been hard for scientific findings regarding secondhand smoke to be interpreted in a disinterested manner. To acknowledge that the data are weak — as they would have to be, given the low concentration of ETS and the limitations of observational studies on this question — has been anathema because this would deprive the antismoking movement of its most powerful weapon against the tobacco industry. The tactic of presenting massive amounts of data devoid of any critical framework for making sense of those data was meant to obscure this sleight of hand. In large part, scientists and regulators have relied on categorical pronouncements and on the inherent obscurity of the material to create an unassailable dogma. Who could possibly question the wisdom of such authorities as the U.S. Surgeon General, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the World Health Organization?”

(Report Comment)
w duncan November 4, 2009 | 11:47 p.m.

Sounds like the "Hyping Health Risks" author might be hyping his own book.
Keep the ban. Here's the truth:

(Report Comment)

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