The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

December 12, 2010

Our view: Smoking gun?

The Joplin City Council last week declined to place on an election ballot a workplace smoking ban sought by Smoke-Free Joplin.

The council, after a public hearing in which some local bar owners and private club operators objected to a prohibition of outdoor patio smoking and a ban of smoking in private clubs, exempted both and agreed to place a smoking ban with those exceptions on a ballot for a public vote.

Smoke-Free Joplin then rejected the compromise because of the private club exemption.

Jeff Keener, treasurer of the Smoke-Free coalition, told the council that members feel strongly that all workers should be protected from second-hand smoke and that the group would only support it on the ballot if presented to voters with the private club restriction in place.

At this point, we think the ball falls squarely in Smoke-Free Joplin’s court to show that there’s support from the voters.

That being said, we would encourage the group to launch an initiative petition drive to try to force a public vote. It will take 5,125 signatures — 15 percent of the number of registered voters in the last city election — to put the proposal on a ballot using the language the group wants passed.

The surgeon general last week gave the group some powerful ammunition. In a report released Thursday, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin stressed that damage from cigarette smoke — including secondhand smoke — is immediate.

“The message from this report for Americans is simple, there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during a Dec. 9 news conference to announce publication of the new report.

Armed with this new information, Smoke-Free Joplin — or customers — might easily persuade business owners to put up a no-smoking sign of their own accord — without any votes or government mandates.

And that, in our view, would be the best outcome for this issue.

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