Otto’s Bar and Grill is closed. It joins a small number of other failed restaurants that claim Columbia’s smoking ban is solely to blame. And the media appear to be supporting this “Myth of the Smoker,” a slippery-slope campaign of blatant misinformation. The media have failed to make a concerted effort to show whether these businesses were profitable before the city’s action. I can only assume, from observational evidence alone, that they were not, making closure inevitable.
I ask those of the so-called “Smokers Rights” groups to please show me where in the United States or the Missouri constitutions or in city ordinance does it say that our duly elected officials cannot make laws to protect the health of their constituents? Show me where newly proposed legislation, statutes or ordinances must have direct approval of the voters alone. Show me where it is the smoker’s right to whittle away precious personal and tax dollars in unnecessary health care costs. Please, I ask you, show me.
Taverns and restaurants throughout the city are doing just fine with smoking bans in place. Boone Tavern, Flat Branch, Sycamore, Lucy’s, G&D Pizza and the multitude of other establishments throughout the city, the state and the country are surviving profitably without a smoke-hazed environment.
Maybe, just maybe, the poor quality of the food, the company, the service, the location, or just poor business decisions had something to do with these failures. Maybe owners need someone or something else to blame other than themselves and their static business schemes in this new, health-oriented economy. Maybe each had run the course of its business life-cycle, waiting for death. Restaurants and taverns, even those established for decades, live and die at the whim of the eating public and the economy, and they often vanish quickly. Death, like taxes, is inescapable.
The smoking community is angry because city officials recognize the truth: Reducing the burden of increased health insurance premiums and Medicare and Medicaid tax dollars to care for those with cancers and diseases directly and indirectly associated with tobacco usage and affecting the many is beneficial and outweighs the addictive benefits of the few.
The counter argument is that smoking is legal; therefore, smoking should not be banned. However, like alcohol and other legal intoxicants, we need to take a tougher stance on the use and misuse of these drugs. And they are just that: drugs.
What does work is education, stopping our children from taking up this addictive habit while still in short pants. What works is using regulatory authority to limit the use of these “legal” drugs as a public safety and health issue. What works is taking the brave stance, as the City Council has, after public hearing and discussion, to say enough is enough and smoking should not be tolerated in public use establishments within our city.
This ordinance was not done in secret; there were open public hearings. Bill 407-06 was introduced on Sept. 18, 2006. Public comment was accepted on Oct. 9, filling more than 40 pages of posted minutes, plus letters and e-mails sent to council members. Ordinance 019252 was enacted by council vote on Oct. 18. If the smokers failed to make their argument last year, it is no fault but their own. Do not continue to poison us with your whining. Your rights were upheld.
To answer the smoker’s query: What are the justifications of banning smoking in private business? Simple: saving lives and saving the taxpayers’ dollars. Business owners, smokers and columnists who believe that a city ordinance was the reason for business failure and will result in greater loss of our constitutional rights have fallen off the slippery slope. May other municipalities follow Columbia’s example. Clean air and good health are our rights in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.
David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.