Smoking opponents overreach with attempted parks ban

Smoking opponents overreach with attempted parks ban

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For those concerned about secondhand smoke, the statewide ban secured the ultimate victory. So why, barely six months after the law took effect, are they determined to run up the score?

Now the City Council is considering whether to restrict smoking at the North Beach Oasis and in the stands at Racine's softball fields. Aldermen should let this one burn out in the ashtray of unneeded proposals.

At least ostensibly, the indoor ban was designed to protect workers. While customers could come and go as they pleased, workers at bars and other places had to deal with prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke and the toxic chemicals it carries. Painful as it may be for business owners, the law does make sense for health reasons.

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The benefit of an outdoor prohibition is hazier. Studies indicate secondhand smoke has minimal impact more than a couple of feet from the person who's smoking and, unlike in an enclosed space, the smoke drifts away after the cigarette has been stubbed out. No workers are typically nearby to be protected.

Obviously the anti-smoking forces want to take advantage of their momentum. Their restlessness alone should not trump the rights of citizens who are using legal tobacco products.

Of course, the legality of the habit doesn't give smokers the right to be belligerent or to litter. The resident who requested this ordinance change tried more polite avenues first. Had she found smokers more accommodating, the topic might never have come to City Hall.

When asked, people should have the courtesy to move aside when lighting up - particularly if they're around children. They should also resist the selfish laziness of dropping their butts on the ground and dispose of them in the nearest receptacle.

Using the law as ammunition for a ferocious attack on a few uncooperative smokers is overkill. It's another sad example of something that was once a matter of common decency now having to be settled in the civic arena.

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