Editorial: Challenges to smoking ban allow health risks to continue


Issue: Legal maneuvers and court hearings prevented the expanded smoking ban from taking effect on July 1.

When students from other states came back to SDSU this year, they probably expected smoke-free bars and restaurants. But they quickly discovered when they saw someone light up in one of the downtown bars that much has changed with the smoking ban over the summer, and it’s not for the better.

This past session, the South Dakota Legislature passed and the governor signed an expanded smoking ban that would have made almost all bars, casinos and restaurants smoke-free. The bill was set to go into effect July 1 until a group of bar and gambling business owners turned in petitions to put the smoking ban to a public vote in the 2010 general election.

After a challenge from smoking ban proponents, officials with the Secretary of State’s office denied the petitions, ruling that too many signatures were invalid. This sparked a series of other legal challenges, and the issue is now caught in the court system. The smoking ban will not go into effect until these legal situations are sorted out, making this smoking ban saga not only confusing, but unhealthy.

Almost everyone knows that smoking and secondhand smoke can cause cancer, contribute to heart disease and a host of other health conditions. Yet, unfortunately, non-smokers in South Dakota will be continually exposed to secondhand smoke in these public places probably until at least 2010. That seems unfair that the decisions of a small group – an estimated 21 percent of American adults smoke cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – will continue to endanger those that have made a conscious choice to maintain their health.

As long as these legal battles rage and the smoking ban is shelved, those that visit South Dakota bars and restaurants will find their health at risk. It’s true that the smoking ban may hurt some businesses’ bottom line, which is one reason that the smoking ban opponents are challenging the bill. But these people need to ask themselves if money – or their ability to smoke wherever they want, as some might say – is really worth more than someone’s health.

Stance: Opponents of the smoking ban should stop their legal maneuvers and allow the smoking ban to go into effect. All those that visit South Dakota’s bars, restaurants and casinos deserve to breathe clean air.