Next Tuesday's Columbia County Commission meeting promises a showdown as county officials take the first step toward booting smokers out of publicly accessible businesses.
On one side is a group of smokers led by Augustan Mike Pirtle, who is gathering signatures on petition opposing a smoking ban from patrons of area bars and restaurants.
On the other side are county officials, with heavy support from private citizens and the business community, as well as research demonstrating the health dangers of cigarette smoke.
Interestingly enough, those dangers are so well-known that opponents of the smoking ban don't even attempt to dispute them. The battle, instead, hinges on what Pirtle calls "personal choice," adding that "smokers should have somewhere where they are able to go without the government telling them 'No, all smoking should cease in a public place.'"
Actually, the smokers themselves are their own worst enemies. Just as Confederate heritage aficionados continue to suffer for long ago failing to prevent racists from co-opting their symbols, so are smokers forever branded as inconsiderate for polluting the air with smoke and trashing streets with cigarette butts.
Smokers have no "right" to puff anywhere that their smoke enters another person's breathing space. And it is the height of stiff-necked arrogance for smokers to contend that non-smokers can simply leave or choose not to be around them; since when do polluters get to dictate everyone else's air quality?
Smokers aren't entitled to consideration in the discussion. It is the private business owners, however, who deserve a say when such a radical change is proposed.
Columbia County's Chamber of Commerce, then, comes through with flying colors as the voice of the county's business community. Chamber's Director Gordon Renshaw, asked the Chamber's 550 members their opinion on the proposed ban; a lopsided 71 percent of those responding approve. "I think it is strong support from the business community," Renshaw says.
Those numbers mirror the results of a News-Times online poll, which show 73 percent favoring a ban.
County commissioners, then, will have these factors to weigh next Tuesday: Complaints from smokers that their non-existent "rights" are being violated, vs. results showing undeniable public and business support for snuffing indoor smoking.
We still contend that the ban presents problems for the increasingly lonely fans of civil liberties and private property rights, but there's little doubt an anti-smoking majority will rule next Tuesday.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.