Let common sense prevail regarding smoking ban

There's a bit of tickle in my throat as I write this.

I took photographs of a house fire last night. It was windy, and at times, you couldn't avoid the smoke. I was way on the outer edges. Really just got a whiff, compared to the members of the Vermillion Fire Department who donned safety equipment and often times just disappeared in the cloud of toxic stuff, so they could tackle the source of the fire head-on.

Sometimes, with all the stuff you can be exposed to from smoke, it only takes a whiff.

The last time my throat felt like this was when I chose to sit and have a conversation with an acquaintance in a local bar. Surrounded by smokers. Some of them weren't too crazy about what I've written about the smoking ban. How I hope voters will approve it. And how the burden falls, in the upcoming referendum election in November, for supporters of the ban to convince the rest of us that smoking is really a good deal.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader contained some news this morning that helped me forget my scratchy throat. The story, in essence, states that if the findings of a recent Sioux Falls poll are accurate, South Dakota's bars, restaurants and casinos will be smoke-free by next year.

Two-thirds of participants in a poll commissioned by the Argus Leader and KELO-TV said they would vote in November for the public smoking ban.

Opponents of the smoking ban read the poll results differently. They believe it reflects people's personal attitudes toward smoking but does not show whether those people would vote to ban smoking if they knew it would cost the state and local businesses a significant amount of money.

Opponents hope there still is time to make that case.

Fair enough.

We welcome to hear from opponents of the ban. We want to hear compelling reasons for us to vote to repeal the measure passed by the Legislature that bans smoking.

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.

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

A pack of smokes costs just under $6 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 — opponents 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 the smoking ban opponents want support that goes beyond their very arguable "its my right," position, non-smokers must truly be convinced that smoking is a really good idea.

We really doubt that opponents will be able to sway those who favor the ban. And we believe South Dakota voters, including the Sioux Falls residents who were recently polled, are smart enough to simply use good old common sense and vote for the ban.

This is at least the third commentary we have published on this topic, but our message remains the same. We urge our readers to vote in favor of the smoking ban.

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