EDITORIAL: Government Should Protect Health
Smokefree workplace laws are a matter of public health protection
The dangers of breathing secondhand smoke are so well documented and so well publicized that it is astonishing that Minnesotans haven't insisted on clean air in restaurants and bars until now. Yet a statewide smokefree workplace law languishes in the legislature. As the state dithers, St. Paul and its Minneapolis twin should institute protective laws in tandem.
This is not a matter of lifestyle freedom. It is a matter of public health protection.
Minnesota doesn't collectively tell bank executives to just get another job if they don't like smoke-filled offices, yet that is the message sent to servers, bartenders and others who work in restaurants and bars. No one is protecting them.
Public health experts have recognized for some time that exposure to secondhand smoke increases risks for both lung cancer and heart disease in nonsmokers, and that children are particularly susceptible to its ill effects. That hasn't been in serious dispute for years. But recent research has suggested much more dramatic, immediate effects.
Dave Thune, the City Council member who introduced the St. Paul ordinance last week, deserves widespread support in this effort. Experience elsewhere has shown either neutral or positive, not negative, economic effects from smokefree laws. Toxins in workers' blood decreased. The vast majority of citizens enjoyed eating out more.
The Twin Cities should take the leap, no matter what happens at the Capitol. Everyone would be better off for it, whether they realize it now or not.