Take it outside

In November 2006, 53.9 percent of Nevada voters approved a citizens’ initiative petition prohibiting smoking in restaurants, grocery stores, bars that serve food and public places open to children.

The petition was written to exempt casinos from many of the restrictions imposed—a cynical recognition by sponsors of the proposed law that casinos would throw their influence and money behind efforts to defeat the bill if there was a possibility that a single gambler would stay home rather than face a few hours without easy access to their addiction.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone who voted for the petition didn’t know that the anti-smoking law would decrease smoking in places smokers and non-smokers frequent.

The law gave non-smokers a greater choice of establishments where they could spend their money without smoking someone else’s cigarette, but smokers were forced to take their habit outside. The law also gave smokers the choice of going to places where they could light up without inconvenience. Not a single citizen in this state had their choice of where to spend their hard-earned money limited by the law.

Many employees of many businesses breathed a sigh of relief. They, after all, are most impacted by second-hand smoke—their only choice is whether to keep or quit their job.

But now, as we reported last week in our news story, Senate Bill 372 would, among other things, allow smoking in stand-alone bars with restaurant facilities that have gambling licenses. Lobbyists have postured the changes as economic development designed to put Nevadans back to work. (It’s surprising they didn’t figure out a marketing ploy by which legislators could be convinced more smoking is actually good for Nevada’s children.)

It seems some businesses care more about the health of their bank accounts than they do about the health of their non-smoking customers and their employees. No surprise there.

But here’s the bottom line: We, some 53.9 percent of Nevada voters, knew that some businesses would be negatively impacted by the law. And we voted to restrict smoking anyway because not every issue is about money. But let’s be clear about this, there are many among us, even within this office, who no longer patronize businesses that allow smoking. There are smokers among us, even within this office, who patronize certain businesses because they do allow smoking—often on an outdoor patio, but sometimes indoors.

It appears the law is working exactly as it was intended to work for the average Nevadan (who, by the way, probably doesn’t own slot machine routes). It’s even had a positive impact on the percentages of Nevadans who reduce or drop the habit. From a conservative point of view, that means taxpayers get to pay less for the long-term harm done to people because of smoking tobacco.

The voters of Nevada enacted a law designed to limit, but not eliminate public smoking. If legislators were honest and looked at the positive impacts that this law has already had on the health of citizens in this state, we wouldn’t be writing this editorial asking them to leave the law as it stands, we’d be writing an editorial asking them to pry themselves loose from the casino lobby long enough to solve the flaw of the original initiative petition and make smoking in all public places illegal.