Pelham should have enacted smoking ban

Published 5:07 pm Monday, November 22, 2010

Dear Editor,

In response to your publication’s news article and related editorial of Oct. 23 regarding Alabaster’s new smoking ordinance, I have to say that the city took a coward’s way out and passed an ordinance that is nothing but a restatement of the status quo.

Prior to passage, business owners could choose to be either smoking, nonsmoking or a blend of designated zones.

After passage, they have exactly the same choices. Nothing has changed.

Exposure to smoke is primarily an issue of public health for all and secondly an issue of comfort for many. Government exists, in part, to provide for the common good. It also exists to represent the needs and desires of the majority.

Only 20 percent of Americans smoke, yet 100 percent of Americans are negatively affected by tobacco smoke. Anything less than an outright smoking ban represents a failure of government by both standards.

You argue in your editorial that the new ordinance “is a fair compromise between the opposing sides.” You speculate that “banning smoking in public places likely would harm some businesses,” and imply that an outright smoking ban would “serve as an unnecessary government infringement in the private sector.”

Editorials, by definition, are mere opinion, but each of these assertions is wrong and without basis.

The new ordinance doesn’t represent compromise at all. It represents non-action.

Birmingham bars that have gone smoke-free are discovering that business grows when they remove an impediment to 80 percent of their potential customer base.

Protecting the health of the citizenry is a necessary governmental function.

Government, at its best, equally protects and balances the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for all its citizens, not just business owners and campaign contributors.

We can only hope that Pelham makes a more responsible decision than Alabaster.

Clifford Beach