Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias One of the new laws that went into effect July 1 in South Dakota places further restrictions on smoking in the state.

The new smoking ban prohibits smoking in any public place that is not a motel room or does not have an alcohol license or a minimum-age requirement for admittance.

It was signed during the past legislative session by Gov. Bill Janklow, a former three-pack-a-day smoker.

But while the blue haze has barely cleared from many public places in South Dakota that once allowed smoking, talk has begun to revise the law to make it even tougher.

We have to agree that the state Legislature needs to take another look at the law and consider closing some loopholes.

Taking such action appears to be growing in importance because many eating establishments are finding a way to keep smokers coming through their doors despite the new law.

They are pursuing alcoholic beverage licenses, which would allow their customers to continue smoking.

They may say that they are doing this only to remain �competitive� with those institutions in the state where smoking is allowed despite the new law.

They may argue that, hey, it�s a free country, and if people want to enjoy a smoke after a good meal, they should be allowed to light up.

Notice that no consideration is given to non-smokers who often are forced to endure the toxins being emitted by their nicotine-hooked neighbors.

There�s no doubt that we South Dakotans love tobacco. Just under 22 percent of our state�s adults smoke. And 45,000 kids are exposed to smoke at home.

The Dec. 14 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report states tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. But it says the health consequences extend beyond smokers to nonsmokers involuntarily exposed to environmental tobacco smoke or secondhand smoke.

Each year, an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths and 62,000 deaths from coronary heart disease in adult nonsmokers are attributed to secondhand smoke. Among children, secondhand smoke causes sudden infant death syndrome, low birthweight, chronic middle ear infections and respiratory illnesses such as asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia.

And ironically, about a week ago, scientists made a new conclusion, and it had nothing to do with the new smoking restrictions in South Dakota.

Tobacco smoke, researchers have determined, is even more deadly than they thought. In types of cancer already linked to smoking � lung, mouth, gullet, larynx, pharynx, pancreas and bladder � the risk is higher than previously believed. Smokers face a risk five to six times that of a nonsmoker, as compared to an elevated risk of three to four times as previously thought. And researchers have now added to the grim list of smoking-related illness, cancers of the stomach, liver, cervix, uterus, kidney, nasal sinus and myeloid leukemia. Those findings were gleaned from more than 3,000 studies involving millions of people.

The most effective prevention, researchers have concluded, is for smokers to kick the habit.

We�re a bit surprised, and frankly disappointed, with the South Dakota Retailers Association reaction to the state�s new smoking law. The association opposed the bill the during the legislative session, and naturally doesn�t like the law.

�Our position was a business owner should be able to make their own policy regarding any issue � including smoking,� said Jerry Wheeler, the association�s executive director. �We felt they (the Legislature) were overstepping their bounds.�

The new law does not restrict smoking in motel rooms, casinos, bars, restaurants serving alcohol and stores that primarily sell liquor or tobacco. Smoking will not be prohibited in homes unless they are used as a day care. Smoking is banned in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, libraries, museums, theaters, schools, buses, jury rooms, elevators and day-care operations.

Consider this, however. Many restaurants, ranging from those who cater mainly to adults, to, sadly, those who fit the �family� eating establishment category, have taken steps to make sure smoking will not be banned in their buildings.

In mid-July, for instance, the Sioux Falls City Council will consider alcohol licenses for two Perkins restaurants, three Fryn� Pan restaurants, KC�s Restaurant and a bingo hall. The city of Brookings received a request from a Perkins restaurant and granted it. The city of Mitchell received two requests and granted wine licenses to Perkins and Cottonwood Canyon restaurants.

We wouldn�t be surprised to hear that many smokers in South Dakota view the new law as a violation of sorts � a stripping of personal freedom.

We�re disappointed that many restaurants have acted prematurely. There�s a good chance, we believe, that if they gave the new smoking ban a trial run in their eating establishments, they may see their numbers climb.

It doesn�t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. Why are smoking sections usually much smaller than non-smoking sections in restaurants? Because most diners like to enjoy their food without inhaling second-hand smoke.

Smokers that currently are complaining about the new law should realize, too, that their voices won�t be heard as for as long of a time as non-smokers. Why?

Those researchers mentioned earlier state that chances are quite good that smokers will die prematurely from cancer, heart disease, emphysema or other smoking-related diseases.

It just makes good health sense to promote a smoke-free environment wherever possible. If a tougher state law is needed for that to happen, we won�t be among the complainers.

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