High court should affirm smoking ban

Smoking kills, and so does secondhand smoke.

Ohio voters in 2006, whether out of concern for health risks or disgusted by cigarette smoke encroaching on dinner, passed an indoor smoking ban in workplaces, including bars and restaurants, intended to spare employees from the risk of breathing in secondhand smoke.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General, any exposure to tobacco smoke, whether direct or secondhand, can cause immediate cell damage to your body.

Even so, many establishments flout the indoor smoking ban, preferring instead to take their chances with a possible fine.

The Supreme Court of Ohio is the highest court in the U.S. state of Ohio, with final authority over interpretations of Ohio law and the Ohio Constitution.

The Supreme Court of Ohio is the highest court in the U.S. state of Ohio, with final authority over interpretations of Ohio law and the Ohio Constitution.

Now, one bar owner’s challenge has made its way to the Ohio Supreme Court, and Gov. John Kasich’s two-year budget removes all funding for enforcement — what little there is — by 2013.

The case in question headed to the high court involves Zeno’s Victorian Village in Columbus, which has racked up thousands in fines levied by the Ohio Department of Health. The bar claims enforcement of the ban unreasonably tramples on property rights, and that it is discriminatory because individual smokers have not been cited, according to Cox News Service.

Zeno’s is represented by the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, whose executive director said, “Local taverns are not public property, and owners of these properties have a right to decide how their indoor air is used, just as potential patrons have a right to freely enter or exit.”

We agree patrons can choose to eat or drink somewhere else. Polls show the ban has greater support among Ohioans now than when it took effect in 2007, and that since then smoking rates across the state have declined slightly.

We don’t have a problem with citing smokers found to be in violation of the ban. However, the place of business, whether it be a bowling alley, restaurant, lodge or bar, sets the rules. It is responsible for posting anti-smoking signs and to not hand out matches and ash trays — in some cases plastic cups of water — to its patrons.

But it’s a stretch to argue that property rights extend to the air we breathe. It is not a business’ right to knowingly permit an easily preventable health risk to its employees or patrons, otherwise food service workers would not be required to wash their hands. The government has long regulated such establishments as it relates to public health and sanitation. The risk of secondhand smoke should be no different.

An overturning of the indoor smoking ban in Ohio would be a costly mistake in terms of public health and future medical costs. But, we share in the optimism of the American Cancer Society of Ohio, whose spokeswoman Marianne Farmer told Cox News Service that her organization is pleased the case has reached the state’s highest court. They, and we, too, expect a ruling upholding the law.

And with an affirmation of the ban, we urge Kasich to adequately fund Ohio’s Quit Line to help smokers kick the habit as well as enforcement efforts to ensure businesses obey the law to protect workers across the state.

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