Passing Judgment on Puffing in Public
The Columbia-Boone County Board of Health recommends a city-wide smoking ban where lighting up in the wrong place could cost smokers $200.
"Smoking is not a right, it's a choice and I don't think it is guaranteed under the Constitution that smoking is a right," said Dean Anderson of the Boone County Coalition for Tobacco Concerns. "But, I do believe in people's right to smoke if they want to smoke. But, I don't believe in their right to force other people to smoke their secondhand smoke."
The health board's plan would eliminate smoking in indoor restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, and athletic stadiums and arenas.
Some smokers think the proposed ban goes too far.
"When you go to a bar, you're going to know that there's going to be people smoking there," said Patty Johnson, "and that's just something you're going to have to deal with."
At least 200 cities nationwide have smoke-free bars and restaurants, and at least 40 Columbia restaurants are voluntarily smoke-free.
"For the few individuals that we lose because of that, that might have had a beer or two or what-not, vs. the huge increase we will be getting, and have already gotten, at lunch and dinner time, it more than balances out," said Brad Pippin, co-owner of two restaurants, Sophia's and Addison's.
Health officials worry about service industry employees working in an unhealthy environment.
"No one should have to be exposed to a Class A carcinogen in order to hold a job."
But, not everyone wants to be protected.
"I don't think second-hand smoke is too bad," said one bar employee. "I mean, unless I'm necessarily, like, smoking a cigarette, no it's not. I don't think it's too bad. I don't think I'm ever going to get cancer from working in a bar."
The Columbia City Council will hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers of the Daniel Boone Building. After the hearing, the council is scheduled to decide whether to accept or reject the proposed ban, or let the voters decide the issue.