Shedding some light on where everyone can still light up

By Bill Miston

Smoking in bars and restaurants has always been a hot-button issue, especially here on campus. Since the repeal of the smoking ban by the Champaign City Council in May, businesses have made the decision whether to ban smoking on their own. Many establishments took to either side of the ban. But two bills that just passed in Oakland, Calif., and Chicago will take the ban to the streets.

It’s commonly thought that public places, like sidewalks and parks, are places that if someone wanted to get their nicotine fix, they were within their rights to pull out a pack and suck down a cancer stick.

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But on Tuesday, the city of Oakland, Calif., passed an ordinance that makes smoking at the following places illegal: ATMs, parks and trails, golf courses, outdoor cafes and service lines, child-care centers, hotels and within 10 feet of bus stops.

The law was passed in order to “protect nonsmokers from health problems associated with second-hand smoke.”

In Chicago, a similar law passed Wednesday making smoking illegal at beaches, parks and playgrounds.

In both cities the maximum fine for violating the new law is $500.

My question is, when will this infringement on the public’s right to use public areas as they see fit stop? Or why do we keep allowing the government to tell bars and restaurants what they can or cannot do when it comes to their smoking rules?

The harms of smoking are clear and banning smoking in child-care centers seems like it is something that should have been done awhile ago, but having a broad ban on smoking at ATMs, bus stops, or golf courses seems to be a little much.

Try telling Michael Jordan he can’t light up a stogie on a golf course.

Those who want to ban smoking in bars and restaurants have valid points. Studies have shown that secondhand smoke is as harmful, if not more, as smoking. Those that are hurt most by secondhand smoke are those that work in an environment where the secondhand smoke is present – bars and restaurants.

With all the legislation that has been passed to help curb smoking all in the interest of saving lives, cities should save time and hassle by just banning tobacco outright.

If the national trend is to move away from smoking in order to save lives, start at the root of the problem. All bans do is create more specific rules and exceptions that are difficult to inform the public about. Smoking is bad for your health. Period.

There is no benefit to allow smoking to be legal if there are going to be so many specific rules as to where you can smoke, especially in places where those who once had a haven to smoke, can no longer.

The problem with these newly passed bans is that there’s a major flaw – the enforcement relies heavily on the public.

It was never good to be a tattle-tale. Can you imagine if there were to be a similar ban here in Champaign and you saw someone call the cops over to cite the drunken guy standing in line for the ATM outside of C.O.s? You would then become branded by all of those in line for the bar as “That Guy/Girl.”

When will these rules stop? On campus, students are asked to smoke at a distance of 25 feet or more from University building entrances and exits. If the goal of the University is to achieve a smoke-free public environment, where will the public be left to light up?