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What we think: Let's light flame under smoking issue

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By The Staff

The report last week by the U.S Surgeon General about the even more damaging effects of smoking – that brief exposures to even second-hand smoke can cause immediate and significant problems for your body – should light a fire under discussions in Shelby County about creating a smoking policy for restaurants.

This concept emerged early this year when a group formed on Facebook and took its arguments for banning smoking in restaurants first to the City of Shelbyville and then to Shelby County Fiscal Court.

They argued that residents should not have to endure smoke while dining, especially with their families. We have agreed with that suggestion.

Shelbyville City Council listened quietly and took no action, more or less rendering a pocket veto of the idea, though there was feeling expressed that the county needed to address this issue first.

Enter Fiscal Court, where magistrates not only considered the request but also in a work session studied smoking bans – both strict and modified – in surrounding cities and counties. They promised to return to the issue.

But months have passed, now, and the embers of the flame of those who sought a total band in restaurants have been reduced to a faint glow.

If they haven’t already, magistrates – and council members and Simpsonville City Commissioners, for that matter – need to take a look at this report, which stated, among other things:

§       There is no risk-free level of exposure to tobacco smoke.

§       Inhaling tobacco causes a wide variety of diseases and damages DNA.

§       Overall health problems are complicated further by exposure to smoke.

§       Low levels of exposure – including second-hand smoke – lead to a rapid and sharp increase in acute cardiovascular events.

Isn’t this serious enough to take up the topic anew, to debate a policy, develop a plan and make a decision?

Should our elected leaders let this be swept under the rug like, well, so many ashes?

We think not. We think there needs to be a policy, and we need those we charge with leading such efforts to do some leading.

Though we would like to believe the customer ultimately would decide this argument and though we are hesitant to suggest that government should intervene in private business, we also don’t believe someone who enters a restaurant should be subjected involuntarily to the byproduct of someone’s gamble with his or her health or life.

If a total ban is not acceptable, then there needs to be distinctly separate facilities in dining facilities, as is the case in many cities, counties and states. We applaud restaurateurs who have made this move on their own volition, but we also don’t think latticework is sufficient.

Yes, we have waved this flag, and we only have succeeded in spreading the smoke. We cough at our own efforts.

Let’s get serious about this issue. Let’s not ignore it and hope it goes away.

Because the smoke we allow may kill someone we love.