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Published November 10 2012

Forum editorial: Measure 4 message loud, clear

North Dakota voters sent an unambiguous dual message by approving Measure 4, the indoor smoking ban, by a landslide 67 percent “yes” vote. One, they said public health trumps myopic business priorities; and two, they forcefully repudiated the Legislature’s long-standing reluctance to pass a comprehensive indoor workplace smoking ban.

Opponents of the measure, including business lobbying organizations whose members should know better, tried mightily to make the impossible case that individual businesspeople should be the only ones who determine what goes on in their workplaces – that they should be able to provide what their customers want without interference from the “nanny state” for any reason. Nice try, but (pardon this) no cigar.

First, their customers were among the voters who said overwhelmingly they want smokers and secondhand smoke out of indoor workplaces of all kinds. No exceptions. Like voters all over the nation (even in the major tobacco-producing states), North Dakotans said “no” to a health hazard that has been known for 40 years.

Second, invocation of the “nanny state” was a canard. Government did not order a ban. Indeed, the measure was a reaction to lawmakers’ inaction. North Dakotans took the matter to the voters, and the voters, not some straw-man nanny state, made the call. The right call.

Finally, the suggestion the anti-smoking campaign has been the work of elitists and urban liberals does not square with the election results. The “yes” vote prevailed in every North Dakota county: urban and rural, conservative and liberal, east and west. The smallest support for a “yes” vote was slightly more than 50 percent in Billings County, and the largest support was more than 76 percent in Barnes County.

The measure becomes law in a few weeks. It imposes penalties for violations ranging from small fines to yanking liquor licenses. The task now is for North Dakotans to insist the law be vigorously enforced.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.