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ISSUE 119 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/14/2006

St. Paul smoking ban helps no one

By Stephanie Soucheray
News Editor

Friday, April 14, 2006

In the last two weeks, the Twin Cities have gone completely smoke-free. St. Paul joined Minneapolis in banning smoking from all indoor areas of bowling alleys, clubs, bars and restaurants at 12:01 a.m. March 31. In one year, the social lives of Twin Cities smokers have been stomped out.

For over a year, since Minneapolis bars and restaurants went smoke free, St. Paul bars and restaurants have seen a rise in business from anxious smokers who don't want to brave negative windchills and crowed sidewalks for the sake of their cigarette habit.

Now, all public places in the Twin Cities will be smoke free, a utopia for groups like the American Lung Association of Minnesota and people like St. Paul city councilman Dave Thune who proposed the St. Paul smoking ban in January and passed it in the City Coucil with a 4-3 vote.

The aforementioned people have trumpeted the ban as a boost to public health, a victory for all citizens in favor of healthy living. The final ordinace itself is a laughable document that relishes its own Big Brother language.

In Section 281.01 of the ordinance entitled "Chapter 238: Public Smoking in Licensed Liquor Establishments and Restaurants," the City Council delares the purpose of the ban to "Affirm that the right to breathe has priority over the desire to smoke."

Smoking ban legislature asserts that a total smoking ban protects the health of those in the restaurant business, as well as protecting all of us from the damaging effects of tobacco in the environment. Apparently, it is up to people like Thune and St. Paul mayor Chris Coleman, to decide what is best for our health.

If smoking is so dangerous and detrimental to our health, then why not make smoking completely illegal? Unless the selling of cigarettes is made illegal, it is ridiculous and costly for bar and restaurant owners to operate under a prohibitive and overly idealistic ban.

When will a smoking ban stop and other health-mandated laws begin? Now, suburbs near Los Angeles are thinking about banning smoking from places like outdoor patios and parks. If we allow our government to start drawing invisible lines around our lives, what's next? Will fast food be outlawed because it makes us fat? Will we see another Prohibition?

Smokers do not need people like Thune to tell them their choice is detrimental to their health. In an era of Surgeon General warnings, The More You Know advertisements, and DARE education, most citizens of this country know that smoking is dangerous for your health. But as bueaucratic government officials will tell you every day, we aren't smart enough to make choices for ourselves.

I am not a smoker, and in fact, I hate the stench of smoke lingering in my hair or on my jacket after visiting a smoky establishment. But I believe a smoking ban is overbearing and costly for bar and restaurant owners, many of whom, with the support of their employees who are subjected to second-hand smoke, protest the smoking ban.

No one will be deterred from smoking because they can't do it in bars, but those who do smoke will see their options dwindle. That means their money stops circulating, and small bars and restaurant owners and employees suffer the financial consequences. Already, a petition against the ordinance by 16 bar and restaurant owners has been denied by the Ramsey County District Court. The city council is offering bars and restaurants loans to help ease the transition into smoke-free land, but many owners say the loans won't be enough.

If bar and restaurant owners wish to be smoke free, they should declare their establishment so. But as long as smoking, like drinking alcohol or eating fatty foods is legal, and business owners and their employees are willing to brace the legal risks of smoking, they should be left alone.

Opinions Editor Stephanie Soucheray is a junior from St. Paul, Minn. She majors in English and in history with a concentration in media studies.

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