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Strike Three, Smoking Out!
February 27, 2007
by Jack Lynch
As of next January, given the vote in Baltimore City last night, half of Maryland will be free of smoking in bars and restaurants, and likely the legislature will finish killing the beast by April and approve a state-wide ban.
It is high time we had this law.
Last year, youth in Frederick discovered that it was difficult to find a large sampling of local restaurants that banned smoking in order to create a Smoke Free Frederick webpage, so the need for this state legislation is extant.
Despite continued resistance by the restaurant and tobacco lobbies, and claims that a ban would hurt restaurant sales, the facts have proven otherwise in local areas where bans already exist. And the industry claims that it wants a state-wide ban rather than a piecemeal effort, which was once a convenient argument to delay actions on smoking I the past.
The historical competition between bars and restaurants for food and liquor sales had always been a factor in restaurant claims that bans hurt them when bars were excluded and the bar lobby had held sway in Annapolis politics for many years. Partly it was the bar standard to meet a food sales requirement as an offset to its alcohol sales, an apparent nod to prohibition era fears that unlimited drink sales led to perdition; and the legislature tended to believe that drinkers in bars were going to hell anyway, why not let them smoke too?
Never mistake this writer for a guy who does not enjoy a good cigar on occasion, and if you should try to ban smoking outdoors, youíll have a real fight on your hands from me then Ė but continued smoking in food and drink establishments cannot be supported given health concerns in the workplace, and the overall falsetto restrictive nature of modern Americans.
So how can this align with the desire to fund health coverage for those uninsured by taxing cigarette sales? Smokerís higher health and insurance costs were long ago built into the actuary tables, back when many more people were smokerís, itís not a needed government intervention on that count. Some studies even suggest that early smoker deaths are a cost benefit.
Weíre decreasing legal alternatives to smoke, and at the same time, smoking is naturally declining, especially given governments long campaign to publicize the health risks and add costs to the products. But that sort of reasoning is unlikely to influence our Maryland legislature when it gets its liberal and justifiable ends around an issue.
Anti smoking legislation in Maryland is up by one in the ninth, with two outs on the opposition, unless the fix is in, the game is over.