Published November 28 2012
Forum editorial: New ban will save ND livesSmoking huts outside bars around North Dakota will go the way of horse carriage garages when a new statewide smoking ban takes effect in one week. North Dakota has joined 29 other states in passing a more stringent statewide ban on indoor smoking in public places and workplaces, thanks to voters’ overwhelming support of the law in the Nov. 6 election.
Some bar owners and representatives of the state hospitality industry – which has staunchly opposed many restrictions to smoking – are wringing their hands about the difficulties they face in implementing the new ban. Because the law covers enclosures, many smoking shelters built outside bars to accommodate smokers now will be prohibited.
The new ban also prohibits outdoor smoking within 20 feet of doors, windows or ventilation intakes, all measures intended to protect nonsmokers from exposure to harmful passive smoke. The law has essentially made smokers outcasts – one of the goals of a ban, after all, is to encourage addicted smokers to quit a deadly habit, and dissuade others from ever starting.
So it’s a very strong piece of initiated legislation to strengthen public health, more sweeping than anything the North Dakota Legislature, stubbornly backward on these issues, would have passed. Now the spokesman for the North Dakota Hospitality Association, which has fought smoking bans as if they were prohibitions of apple pie, is making anguished public comments about whether a definition of “enclosure” will include a chain-link fence, or whether bar owners will be required under the law to chase away patrons to keep them from smoking outside their premises.
At least in Fargo and Cass County, the answer clearly appears to be no. Enforcement will take a backseat to education, according to a local public health official. Complaints will drive enforcement, and when complaints are received, public health officials will work with the businesses to bring them into compliance. Common sense should prevail.
As the “no smoking” signs go up in new places all over the state, it’s worth remembering that more than 800 adults die from smoking every year in North Dakota. Smoking is the state’s top cause of preventable death. In the two years since South Dakota passed a statewide smoking ban, the number of hospitalizations for heart attacks decreased 6 percent, partly due to the smoking ban. That meant 98 fewer heart attacks, and a savings of
$4.2 million in health-care costs, according to a study by the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations. North Dakota’s new ban, as unpopular as it is for a vocal minority, will save money – and lives.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.
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