There’s no question that governmental efforts to control issues of personal choice are controversial and have the potential to alienate.
Smoking bans are one of the latest trends in this arena, and finally, under the threat of strict regulation by the county, Forest Park is taking a look at its options.
Monday’s vote to put this hot potato back in the hands of state lawmakers is not the ideal solution, but then the village isn’t operating under the ideal conditions. There is pressure from both the county and the state to prohibit smoking in bars, bowling alleys and other long established safe zones. The conundrum is that no substantive public input has been sought locally. Without the benefit of this discussion, the council acted appropriately in adopting a weak ordinance that essentially changes nothing but the flow of revenue.
However, regardless of how state legislators vote this year on a proposed statewide ban, the next village council needs to give greater consideration to the public’s health than any supposed economic factors.
The beauty of the village’s new ordinance is the sunset provision. The regulation will expire at the end of 2007. This allows Forest Park to see if the state will take the issue out of the hands of municipalities by adopting a statewide ban effective Jan. 1, 2008. If the state’s ban fails, the village isn’t locked into anything and can begin collecting public input to create a meatier ordinance.
Anthony Calderone was right to recognize that if the state does not approve a statewide ban, the village should reserve the right to debate this issue as soon as possible. By agreeing to operate under the status quo for the next 12 months, smokers and non-smokers alike will have the chance to weigh in on a more permanent local ordinance.
In less than 2.25-square miles, Forest Park has managed to squeeze some 50 bars, restaurants, taverns and the like. This no doubt makes us unique and consideration should be given to the interests of this dominant industry. But we would agree with remarks made by Commissioner Patrick Doolin that lobbyists on either side of the economic argument are preaching to the choir. With such a preponderance of supposed evidence supporting both claims, there’s little hope of convincing someone that a smoking ban will or will not adversely affect their business.
Either way, smoking bans were not created to regulate the economy. The harmful effect of secondhand smoke is the target of any smoking ban.