The following editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:
Forget about a smoking ban for Ketchikan businesses.
Ketchikan doesn’t need it. Customers enter establishments where the air is to their liking. If a business that allows smoking inside isn’t satisfied with the number of customers it is receiving, it will ban smoking all on its own no government intervention necessary.
If a business relies on customers who smoke, then it, too, should be allowed the choice of being a smoker-friendly establishment.
Wally Kubley, owner of the Sourdough Bar, outlawed smoking at his business May 1. This prompted Ketchikan City Councilwoman Marty West to ask whether the community favored an ordinance banning smoking in businesses. Kubley opposes such an ordinance.
Judging by a totally unscientific poll conducted by the Daily News, the community appears to be split on the issue, as it was when the Council addressed the topic 10 years ago. Then, the Council voted 1-5 against the ban, with West being the lone supporter.
The evolution of smoking bans in the United States started nearly 20 years ago. The federal government has left it up to states and communities to impose bans. No statewide smoking ban exists in Alaska, but the law requires designation of smoking and nonsmoking areas. Smoking is prohibited in such places as schools and health care facilities obvious choices. Numerous other businesses and other workplaces don’t allow smoking as well.
Anchorage, Juneau and a handful of small communities ban smoking in all enclosed workplaces, including bars, restaurants and private clubs. Another half dozen or so communities, including Fairbanks, ban smoking in such workplaces, but exempt bars, or only ban smoking in restaurants.
Cigarette smoke is horrible and a proven health hazard. It results in nearly half a million deaths each year for smokers and those who breathe second-hand smoke.
But it isn’t the only risk to one’s health. About a third of Americans are obese, a situation often created by poor diet choices, high among them sweets.
The City Council shouldn’t be the health police. On some issues, the people need to decide individually for themselves. They will make the decision to enter businesses where smoking is allowed or not, just as they will decide what to consume in a meal.
Businesses listen to what their customers want. That’s how they stay in business.
So, there’s no need for a smoking ban not in the municipality and not for the state.