Smoking ban could be a blessing in disguise

This past Monday, July 5, for the first time in Wisconsin, the smoking ban signed by Governor Doyle took effect throughout the state.

            The ban prohibits smoking in all workplaces, and that includes bars, restaurants and hotels.          

            The ban has drawn mixed feelings about the subject. While some insist that this is a case of the government taking away their legal rights to smoke, others argue that in public places such as restaurants, they should be able to enjoy a meal without smoke in the air.

            It is a touchy subject and has been the spark of many a heated debate on Internet news sites and elsewhere. There have been many arguments thrown out onto the table by both supporters and non-supporters of the ban. Here are some of the most common ones.

            Some people have brought up the subject of alcohol. After all, alcohol has been responsible for numerous deaths on Wisconsin roadways when people who have been drinking get behind the wheel. Why outlaw smoking? Is drinking next? What about the food served in restaurants? If it has more of a fat or caloric content than is particularly healthy should that get outlawed too?

            There are similarities and differences between all of these things here. The common similarity between all of these things are that all can be self-harmful. Everyone knows by now that smoking greatly increases the risk for lung and heart related ailments, among others. Drinking too much can impair judgment and lead to bad choices, like driving. And finally, eating unhealthy over a course of time can have negative effects on the body.

            Another way in which these activities are the same is the fact that, given the age of the person, all of these things are legal. Alcohol and cigarettes are sold all over, and last time I checked, consuming a hamburger with all the trimmings was not illegal.

            Driving while intoxicated can put the driver as well as passengers and other people on the road in danger. We already know that there are penalties for driving while drunk. Whether or not people believe they are strict enough is another story. The penalties from eating unhealthy foods over a long period of time come in the form of health related issues. The difference here is that in the very moment it is being consumed in the presence of other people, smoking can be harmful.

            People with asthma or smoke allergies, and some people who simply do not like the smell of cigarette smoke argue that smoking stops being a right the moment it affects others. They argue that they shouldn’t have to stay home or go out and worry about the smoke in a restaurant or bar. On the other hand, smokers and even some non-smokers feel that they have the legal right to smoke and people who don’t like it have the right to go to another facility to avoid it.

            For those who are unhappy with the smoking ban, it could actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Although smoking has been banned in workplaces including bars and restaurants, it is still legal to purchase cigarettes and smoke in homes, cars, and outside away from public establishments. That may not ease everyone’s anger about this situation, but it is a reminder that their choice to smoke is not completely gone.

            At the same time, non-smokers are free to go to any bar or restaurant and enjoy a drink or a meal without having to be exposed to smoke if they don’t want to. Like anyone who smokes, they also have the freedom to do what they want under their own roof and on their own property.

            Another thing to consider with the smoking ban is that some believe the ban in bars and restaurants will actually prompt more people to quit smoking. True, some people enjoy smoking and believe it is there legal right, but others that maybe want to quit could use the ban as an opportunity or even encouragement to do so.

            Not everyone will be made happy with this smoking ban, but maybe by looking at the positives in this situation, we can find some sort of compromise that will attempt to make that so.

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