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Published: Sunday, 7/13/2003

Waffling in the suburbs

The arrogance of some Lucas County suburban officials seems to have no limits. Instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Toledo, which has just passed a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, the suburbanites are waffling, probably in the hope that they can lure more consumer dollars from the city.

Take the statement of Maumee Council President Tom Shook, usually a levelheaded member of that body. He says that if the residents of Maumee submit a petition signed by a majority of registered voters, “we would certainly entertain it at that time.” But city council will not take the lead. Who does he think he is, King Henry VIII? Entertain, indeed.

Well, that's leadership for you, even though the public is way ahead of its elected local officials on the issue of legislating a smoke-free environment.

Keith Haddad, Sylvania council president, says he would worry about the loss of bar and restaurant business to Sylvania Township establishments. Only Oregon council president Mike Sheehey says he might support such a move. which he personally favors. He thinks Ohio should have a statewide ban.

An excellent idea. Lucas County in 2001 was cuffed on the ear by the Ohio Supreme Court, which quashed a countywide ban. Do the eminent justices allow smoking in their august halls, or are they just too insulated from the concerns of ordinary citizens. In an era of balkanized local governments, statewide action makes sense.

It would cost about $1 a signature to put a state smoking ban on the ballot, or about $350,000. The time is ripe. Public opinion is turning on this issue. Even if elected officials don't get it, ordinary citizens do.

Sure, there will be cries that the “right to smoke” must not be infringed. However, 70 percent of the population does not smoke and doesn't want second-hand smoke. If this majority can be mobilized, as a state constitutional amendment would do, craven politicians just might start reassessing their profiles in courage.

Suburban officials have been bashing Toledo for years. Now the city has taken a significant public-health step, one which deserves collateral action by its civic neighbors. Those so-called leaders who yield to the entreaties or threats of smokers are behaving shamefully. There is no other word for it.

Suburban officials should know that a larger percentage of their residents are nonsmokers compared to Toledoans. Inspired by Toledo's success, it's time for the citizens of Maumee and the other suburbs to send a message to their arrogant leaders.

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