Efforts to roll back Michigan's smoking ban should be soundly rejected
In the two years since the smoking ban went into effect in Michigan, a couple of things have become abundantly clear. The first is that the ban enjoys widespread popular support. The second is that it has done what it’s supposed to do, which is rid public places of second-hand smoke, the single most dangerous form of environmental pollution that people are commonly exposed to.
So why would the Legislature be considering not just one, but several efforts to roll back or undo one of the better pieces of public policy to come out of Lansing in recent years? These efforts should be roundly rejected.
We have been strong proponents of the ban, passed in 2009 to prohibit smoking in work places, as well as in restaurants and bars. The public has welcomed it, too. If anything, enjoying the opportunity to experience smoke-free public places has only increased the popularity of the ban. A survey conducted by EPIC-MRA in May 2011 found that 74 percent of those who responded said they supported the ban, up from 66 percent in a similar survey taken in 2009.
Angela Cesere | AnnArbor.com
Clearly, the law is creating a more healthful environment for the residents of Michigan, and people love it. Yet the ban is now under assault by GOP lawmakers who don’t like it and are trying to use their majority status to undercut it.
Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, is trying to amend the state’s community health budget to prevent the ban from being enforced for charitable events such as an annual cigar dinner put on by a Catholic charity in his district. “Philosophically, I’m opposed to the smoking ban,’’ he told the Associated Press.
Bills also were introduced in the House and Senate last term that would permit smoking at restaurants as long as it occurred in an outdoor patio or in an enclosed room separate from the rest of the indoor dining area.
Michigan has enough serious issues facing it at the moment that the Legislature should be tackling those, and not wasting effort on rolling back a hugely popular policy that protects public health. To see Republican lawmakers dawdle on matters that could significantly improve the Michigan economy - say, for instance, the proposed new international bridge between Detroit and Windsor - while chipping away at the smoking ban is not leadership, it’s regressiveness. Is this how the GOP wants to squander its legislative majority? It’s certainly not what the public wants or deserves.
(This editorial was published in today's newspaper and reflects the opinion of the Editorial Board at AnnArbor.com.)