Lawmakers: Resolve to protect non-smokers

Come the final days of December and early January, resolution-making time will set in. Along with exercising more, many people will resolve to quit smoking.

The Legislature should resolve to revive a bill that would prohibit lighting up in public places — with very, very few exceptions.

The attempt was made last session with Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe’s Senate Bill 5791 and its companion, HB 1868. The bill — with an all-or-nothing approach — would require smoking patrons of bars, taverns, bowling alleys and restaurants currently excluded from the smoking ban under the Clean Indoor Air Act to step outside if they felt the need to smoke. No more smoking and non-smoking sections that really have no meaning the second a non-smoker smells the smoke wafting across the restaurant. No more taking the stench with you via your clothes and hair. No more headaches with your order of food.

This is hardly a tough love approach to get people to stop smoking or an example of government stomping on smokers’ rights before they can stomp out their cigarette butts. This is about protecting people who do not smoke and who shouldn’t be subjected to the poison because they choose to be in public or work in one of these establishments. It’s about basic health. The statistics on the deadliness of second-hand smoke make this issue important enough to push through the coming legislative session.

Our state needs one standard for prohibiting smoking in public places, not a patchwork of local standards that change from city to city, county to county.

Quite understandably, some jurisdictions have tried to handle the matter themselves. The Pierce County Health Board and the City of Yakima are considering local bans, according to the Washington Restaurant Association, which is also frustrated with the matter. The fact that these local governments are so eager to tackle the issue is proof that it needs to be dealt with on a statewide level soon, before it winds up in court.

The Washington Restaurant Association is against the local bans and says it is working with the National Restaurant Association to address indoor air quality. The best way to do so, it says, is through proper ventilation system design, installation and use.

Sorry, we disagree. The best way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate the poison entering peoples’ lungs by not introducing that poison into the air we breathe in the first place.

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