Cincinnati has just begun to consider strengthening its smoking restrictions. Anything short of protecting all workers' health would be just blowing smoke.
Most workplaces are already smoke-free since Cincinnati's Board of Health adopted clean indoor-air regulations in 1985. Bars, restaurants, bowling alleys and bingo halls were exempted. Most offices and hundreds of area restaurants have since gone smoke-free. Opponents of laws against indoor smoking base their arguments on the rights of smokers and employers to decide for themselves, but this debate is about more than just an individual's right to the entertainment of his choice.
Bars, restaurants and other hospitality sites are also workplaces. Lung cancer rates for waiters and waitresses rank near the top for employee groups. Should service people be forced to make a choice between their health and supporting their families?
Medical research in the last 20 years has built a more damning case against secondhand smoke as a Class-A carcinogen. Secondhand smoke is believed responsible for about 53,000 premature U.S. deaths a year, according to the National Cancer Institute and others. It is implicated in heart disease, cancers, asthma and other fatal diseases. Tobacco company officials now admit their product is harmful.
But successful campaigns in other cities to protect workers from other people's smoke have hinged on how leaders framed the debate and built popular support. Advocates for indoor smoking restrictions in public places object to calling it a "ban." They want a "worker and nonsmoker protection law." No one is trying to stop people from smoking. All that clean indoor-air laws do is ask smokers to step outside.