Ban smoking in bars, restaurants

A statewide ban is the best way to protect patrons and restaurants.

Currently, Minneapolis and St. Paul city councils are posturing back and forth, hesitating to go forward with citywide smoking bans. Faced with intra-city competition and pleas from business owners, it seems unlikely smoking bans will be passed without a time-consuming and resource-draining fight. For these and other reasons, the Legislature should bypass the cities and ban smoking in bars and restaurants.

Five states – California, Delaware, Florida, Maine and New York – already have smoking bans. It’s time Minnesota takes this step. Smoking bans are widely supported in Minnesota and across the nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 70 percent of nonsmokers and more than a quarter of smokers support banning smoking in restaurants. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, three-quarters of bar and restaurant patrons prefer nonsmoking tables.

Such a ban will not be a tyranny of the majority, considering it involves health. While many are concerned with the intrusion upon individual rights, it is justified in this case. As the government regulates the safety of food, drugs, drinking-water and clean air, is it not unreasonable that they regulate air inside bars and restaurants. In certain instances, the government must step in to ensure the safety of the populace.

Simply letting the market solve this problem will take too long, as each specific bar or restaurant would take a huge risk if it were to ban smoking in its establishment. In that time thousands of Minnesotans would needlessly be exposed to health-damaging secondhand smoke.

Aside from conflicts with other cities, it appears local businesses and politicians are having a difficult time reconciling differences in their own cities. Particularly of a concern is the matriculation of patrons from nonsmoking cities to those who still allow smoking. For this reason, a statewide ban would make much more sense.