Now that their misguided petition drive has failed, the owners of some of Toledo's bars and restaurants would be well advised to get busy and comply with the city's new smoking ban, which - blessedly and finally - takes effect today.
Opponents of the ban have little to gain and a lot of goodwill to lose if they launch a campaign to water down the ordinance. The civic argument is over, and Toledo's elected representatives have prevailed in preserving the public's right to breathe clean air in public places.
In one sense, it is regrettable that the issue won't be on the Nov. 4 ballot. We are confident that voters in the city would have overwhelmingly upheld council's unanimous action, as has occurred in other jurisdictions where bans have gone before the voters.
Broad public backing for clean-air measures has long since overwhelmed resistance by the smoke-anywhere crowd, and we are hopeful that other Ohio communities will follow Toledo's lead. Bowling Green already bans smoking in public places; Wauseon will vote on a ban in November.
Locally, petitioners could collect only 8,508 valid signatures of registered voters, well short of the 9,478 needed to qualify the issue for the ballot.
The effort obviously was handicapped by a poorly orchestrated campaign, which ended up with lots of signatures - 16,097 of them - but many of them were from people who lived outside the city or were not registered voters. Some of the petitions carried printed names instead of the required signatures.
More evidence that council has been on the right track with the smoking ban comes from a study by Farhang Akbar-Khanzadeh, a professor of public health at the Medical College of Ohio.
Dr. Akbar-Khanzadeh tested nonsmoking customers and employees in eight Toledo restaurants in 1999 and 2000, and found measurable levels of nicotine and other tobacco byproducts in their bodies, even if they stayed in nonsmoking sections.
In some cases, patrons in nonsmoking areas had twice the level of these noxious substances than did those in totally smoke-free environments. Why? Because shared ventilation systems don't work.
The findings should end the specious arguments of bar owners who claim a right to let people smoke in their establishments, a right to pollute the air of others, and a right to put others at risk of illness. Like any individual right, theirs stops where other people's noses begin.
Dr. Akbar-Khanzadeh has some sympathy for those who oppose the local ban. He feels, as we have argued, that a statewide or national smoking ban in public places is preferable.
But we have a start, and bar and restaurant owners should not squander their energy on another fruitless petition campaign.
We doubt the claims of those owners who insist they will lose business because of the ban. Certainly there is no evidence of that in cities like New York City and Dallas and states like California and Florida.
Proprietors who choose to construct a separate smoking room have 30 days to apply for a permit and 120 days to get the work done.
Or they can go smoke-free now.
Accordingly, here's to healthy, smoke-free dining and drinking in Toledo.
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