Sacramento should not ban smoking in outdoor public places

The city and local business owners should instead work on a campaign to foster improved smoker habits

Councilman Steve Hansen, whose district includes the Midtown-downtown “grid,” is working behind the scenes on an outdoor cigarette-smoking ban. His goal is to prohibit smoking on restaurant and bar patios that extend into public spaces. Health is his No. 1 priority here; the dirty habit causes premature death in hundreds of thousands of Americans annually and is a needless burden on our health-care system.

A majority of central-city business owners, however, have rebuffed Hansen’s efforts. They argue that an outright ban would be bad for business during volatile economic times, and that their existing approach of self-regulating customers on patios has been successful.

We don’t agree with either party: There’s something otiose about a government banning smoking at a bar patio where, say, people are already taking shots of alcohol. To that end, we’d like to see businesses in the urban core improve smokers’ conscientiousness and courteousness.

Hansen’s office and central-city business leaders should work together on this. A “task force” should strategize on progressive ways to get ahead of the issue and establish a visible, impactful campaign to change smokers’ habits. Such an effort would be an attractive marketing strategy for Midtown and downtown. And it would be one step closer to a smoke-free Sacramento.