Reasonable restriction

To the editor:
The now well-established fact that second-hand smoke is hazardous should, in itself, be sufficient to bring about prohibition of smoking in public places. Any possible problems in implementing such prohibition can be readily overcome.
Many of the objections to the passing of municipal no-smoking bylaws appear to be fallacious. Consider the one that such bylaws restrict our freedom of choice.
Let’s face it! How could human society survive without restrictions? Do our laws against murder and theft restrict our “freedoms?” Rather, such laws ensure our freedoms!
On the other hand, poor health resulting from unsafe practices does a great deal to restrict our freedoms. We now know that smoke-related health problems can be as prevalent among non-smokers exposed to second-hand smoke as among smokers themselves.
Do we really have the choice of going to a non-smoking restaurant? Even today, with all the education we are receiving concerning the hazards of smoking, non-smoking restaurants are not all that common.
And we may not have the choice of finding a job in which smoking is prohibited. Saying that we do have such a choice assumes that jobs are plentiful and easily obtained.
But even if this were the case, why should those who “choose” to eat or work in a smoking environment be forced to endanger their health?
Then there’s the objection that many of these establishments are not public places but private places simply because they are privately-owned. Not so. A “public” place is a place in which the public enters for business purposes or for eating or entertainment.
For smokers who wish to sit and smoke with their friends, private clubs and private restaurants could be established on a wider basis.
We also have heard the argument that the rights of owners of private businesses are being violated if they have to make their establishment non-smoking. But when an owner allows the air of these places to be polluted with a carcinogenic agent, whose rights are being violated? Do we not have the right to breathe clean and healthful air?
I believe the owner of any business, when he fully understands all the benefits of a non-smoking environment, will be happy to provide for the comfort and well-being, and especially the health, of his patrons.
I ask those who think owners of businesses should have the aforementioned “rights” to consider whether these “rights” should extend to other unsafe practices such as a restaurant operating with a standard of cleanliness which is below requirements of health regulations.
After all, if a patron is concerned about results of exposure to harmful bacteria, can’t he “choose” to go to a restaurant which complies with the regulations?
No. It is clearly a consideration of public well-being to regulate against any practices which endanger public health.
Some business owners are under the illusion that they will lose business if they disallow smoking. No so. This has been proven over and over. In many cases, business actually increases when smoking is prohibited.
But the facts and statistics will have little impact on one who already has made up his mind that these statistics are wrong.
Then there is the belief that because certain establishments, such as bars, Bingo halls, nightclubs, etc., always have had smoking, the practice should continue for these places. But why so? Why should those who wish to participate in such activities be forced to endanger their health?
Some have raised the question as to how a no-smoking bylaw can be enforced in the municipalities. Surely it can be enforced in the same way any other bylaw is enforced. Restaurants in Fort Frances which have gone non-smoking have simply made the fact known, and virtually all of their patrons have complied.
For the small number of patrons who don’t, they can be asked to stop smoking in the restaurant or leave. In most cases, that is all it takes.
But for the rare unusually obstinate individual who refuses to leave the premises, it may be necessary to call the police, as one would in any other such situations.
Finally, there are the “red herring” arguments. The air at Fort Frances is already polluted, and why is nothing being done about that? Why doesn’t the government ban tobacco products? One could go on and on. But these arguments seem to be posed in order to divert one’s attention from the main issue.
There is just one of these arguments I would like to address. Why isn’t there the same concern about alcohol? It, too, is a health hazard. Many have died of cirrhosis of the liver. Many have died from being killed by a drunken driver.
Yes, there are hazards from the abuse of alcohol. But, as far as drunk driving is concerned, we have good programs in place to help control it. Also, laws against being drunk in public places are being enforced. So those who drink moderately in public are not harming those around them.
Not so with those who smoke in public. The only way to protect the public from second-hand smoke is to prohibit smoking in public places.
Donald Clink