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Published: Tuesday, 11/18/2003

Toledo leads the way

The naysayers who maintain that nothing good ever starts in Toledo must be surprised that folks in Columbus are launching their own campaign for a smoking ban in the state capital s restaurants and bars.

And they re praising Toledo effusively for showing the way.

“The best word to use is inspiration,” said Dr. Rob Crane, co-chairman of the SmokeFree Columbus Coalition. “You guys made something happen in the No. 1 smoking city in the country ... that is the essence of courage.”

Dr. Crane s group is urging Columbus city council and Mayor Michael Coleman to enact a no-smoking ordinance and also intends to target the capital s suburbs.

This is further proof that great leadership can accomplish great things. Toledoans should be proud that their city has taken the lead in protecting the public in general and hospitality workers specifically from the well-documented dangers of secondhand tobacco smoke.

In addition to Columbus, Cleveland and Dayton are among major Ohio cities discussing the possibility of smoking bans. Bowling Green has had such an ordinance for more than a year, and Wauseon awaits the official canvass of the Nov. 4 election to see if a ban was adopted there.

A ban on smoking in public places is hardly a revolutionary concept. California and Florida have statewide restrictions of the type we would like to see in Ohio, and New York City has a tough municipal ordinance.

Moreover, the fresh-air movement is taking hold in Europe, including France, where the smoky caf has long been a cultural symbol. President Jacques Chirac declared war on tobacco as a public health hazard last spring and imposed huge tax increases on cigarettes.

Bans on workplace smoking are due to take effect next year in Ireland, the Netherlands, and Norway. The Irish ban will include pubs. Most tobacco advertising will be banned.

The point is that Toledo, in adopting its smoking ban, is in the forefront of a nationwide and even worldwide trend. The right to breathe clean air at work and at leisure is becoming a universally accepted principle that will not be reversed.

And while we hope Columbus does indeed follow Toledo s lead, we hope even more fervently that one day in the near future a state constitutional amendment will ban smoking in public places throughout Ohio.

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