Smoking ban bill should be broad, and statewide



January 19, 2010 - 12:00 AM

A proposed statewide smoking ban would ex-empt the gambling areas in the four casinos the state is building.
Rep. Brenda Landwehr of Wichita, who strongly opposes the anti-smoking law, is equally peeved that the state would make an exception for the casinos it will own and profit from.
“We’re going to exempt ourselves because we write the law,” she said, and volunteered to help write a compromise bill that would remedy that distasteful discrimination.
What Rep. Landwehr has in mind is to kill the statewide ban and substitute a measure that would leave smoking bans up to cities and counties and take the state out of the picture. Oh, yes, and would also allow those smaller units of government to ban smoking in any casinos that happened to be within their borders.
Her Trojan horse should should be stopped at the gate.
The best way to reap the full health benefits of making smoking illegal in public places is through a statewide ban that allows for no exceptions.
To protect those who work in restaurants, bars, office buildings and similar public places, the ban should be comprehensive. Evidence clearly shows that those exposed to second-hand smoke run an enhanced risk of heart disease, cancer and upper respiratory diseases. The gambling areas of casinos would be high on that list. Of course the state should not only be willing but eager to extend the ban to its own casinos and take the lead.
The best reason for smoking bans is to encourage smokers to quit. The more places that hang up no smoking signs, the more smokers will decide the habit isn’t worth the hassle. Making cigarettes more expensive with higher taxes has the same good effect: New York City has the third highest cigarette tax in the nation at $1.50 a package — and one of the lowest rates of teenage smoking. More than coincidence is in-volved in those numbers.
Tobacco use causes about 440,000 deaths in the U.S. every year. The cost of treating illnesses caused or aggravated by tobacco use runs into the billions every year — and much of that cost falls on the U.S. taxpayer who pays for the Medicare and Medicaid programs as well as the health care provided to veterans, members of the armed services and other government employees.
An outright ban on tobacco use would take the nation a huge step forward in bringing health care costs down.
But that should be done on the national, not the state, level.
Kansas can do its share by passing the strictest possible statewide smoking ban its lawmakers can write.

P.S. Ignore Rep. Landwehr. She doesn’t really want to help.

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