Vote in favor of smoking ban

In what appears to be an about face, we will get the opportunity to vote on HB 1240.  This piece of legislation expanded South Dakota's smoking ban statute and repealed exemptions for liquor retailers, video lottery establishments and Deadwood gaming establishments.

Petitions were filed last June to refer the issue to a public vote, but Secretary of State Chris Nelson ultimately rejected them because of the many errors he found in a sampling of petitions filed.

The way has been cleared for voters to decide the fate of South Dakota's smoking ban in next year's general election after Secretary of State Chris Nelson and Attorney General Marty Jackley announced last week the state will not appeal a Circuit Court decision.

Judge Kathleen Trandahl ruled this month that opponents of the smoking ban secured enough valid signatures in a petition drive to meet the threshold for a referendum. The ban was passed by the Legislature in March and signed into law but never enforced.

A coalition of four organizations decided to refer the measure to a vote of the public. The coalition includes: Deadwood Gaming Association, Licensed Beverage Dealers of South Dakota, Music and Vending Association of South Dakota and Video Lottery Establishments of South Dakota.

They call themselves Citizens For Individual Freedom.

Last spring, we noted that members of this group, and like-minded individuals who they seem to attract, are fond of equating the ability to smoke with the rights we all enjoy thanks to the U.S. Constitution.

The First Amendment expressly prohibits the United States Congress from making laws respecting an establishment of religion or that infringe the freedom of speech, infringe the freedom of the press, limit the right to peaceably assemble, or limit the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

There's nothing in the Bill of Rights that prohibits Congress, or more appropriately, the South Dakota Legislature, from passing a law that places limitations on smoking.

We also must reiterate a stand we took last spring: The Citizens for Individual Freedom will need to come up with compelling reasons for us to vote to repeal HB 1240.

They will have to be somewhat convincing, because let's face it. They want us to be supportive of something – mainly cigarette smoke – that eventually will strike its user with serious illness and probably a premature death.

I suppose they could be selfless, and ask us not to worry about them. You know, it's America with that pesky freedom of choice thing. Of course, they will have to explain how non-smokers who enjoy at least one vice in life, such as video lottery or Deadwood gambling, are supposed to do that without putting their health and even their lives at risk.

According to the American Heart Association, constant exposure to environmental tobacco smoke nearly doubles the risk of having a heart attack, according to a landmark study of more than 32,000 women. The 10-year investigation involving female nurses found a higher level of risk from passive smoking than has been seen before. The study was published in the May 1997 issue of Circulation, an American Heart Association scientific journal.

The 1997 study was not the first to indicate the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke. In 1992 the American Heart Association's Council on Cardiopulmonary and Critical Care concluded that environmental tobacco smoke is a major preventable cause of cardiovascular disease and death.

The coalition that represents Deadwood gaming, the state beverage dealers, music and vending businesses and video lottery establishments in the state will also have to convince all of us how making sure that their customers smoke is good for business.

A pack of smokes costs just under $5 in South Dakota, tax included. That means that a person who smokes a pack a day spends nearly $150 per month. Which adds up to a bit over $1,800 a year. It's perplexing — they must convince us that when people spend all of that money on cigarettes, it's somehow supposed to be good for business.

For this group to meet their goals, they're going to have to assure us that smoking isn't a pock on our state's and nation's healthcare systems. They must demonstrate to everyone – smokers and those who have chosen not to start the habit, thank you – that non-smokers won't be at risk from second-hand smoke.

They must explain how encouraging, or least maintaining the status quo, on a habit that takes such a huge economic toll on South Dakotans is strangely good for business.

Ultimately, they must deal with all of those things while persuading the non-smoking population in the state to vote in favor of something they don't especially enjoy or appreciate.

They are going to have to sincerely explain to us the "benefits" of smoking, especially since smokers are likely a minority among South Dakota voters.

If Citizens For Individual Freedom want support that goes beyond the very arguable "its my right," argument, non-smokers must truly be convinced that smoking is a really good idea.

The petition circulators are going to need some non-smoking votes to stop HB 1240. They must prompt non-smokers to defend their "right" to smoke when they obviously have just shown us all they don't care about non-smokers' right to be healthy.

As we have at least once already on this page, we are urging our readers to vote in favor of the smoking ban and allow HB 1240 to become law.

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