MICHIGAN is poised to become the first state in the Midwest to enact a statewide smoking ban, beating Ohio for that distinction. It would join at least 10 other states that have taken the lead in promoting clean air and advancing public health.
Bipartisan legislation introduced in both the Michigan House and Senate would ban smoking in the state's bars, restaurants, and workplaces. Predictably, opposition to such a comprehensive ban began even before the bills were officially introduced.
The state's bar and restaurant associations argue that decisions to go smoke-free shouldn't be legislated, and instead should be driven by the market and consumer choice.
But the hazards posed by secondhand smoke are well documented and the number of smokers is declining. Ultimately, opponents of smoking bans are only trying to forestall the inevitable: the day when smoking is banned in all public places.
Last Monday the state of Montana - Marlboro Country - joined California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island in enacting a ban. North Dakota awaits only the governor's signature for its law.
The idea is taking hold not only in the United States, but around the world, with bans in such unlikely places as Ireland and Italy, where smoking is viewed as a national pastime.
In Ohio, however, there is still much work to do. Toledo's 2003 smoking ban was seen initially as a model for the nation. Then voters last November chose to water down its strictures. Now Ohio is left to play catch-up to a global phenomenon crafted in its own backyard.
Next month volunteers of the American Cancer Society and other groups will begin a petition campaign with the goal of putting a statewide ban on the November, 2006, ballot. If approved, the law would go into effect in 2007. But first the campaign must survive the vigorous opposition of the vocal few who favor a hazy "right" to smoke and a governor who believes such issues should be addressed on the local level.
Meanwhile, good for Michigan's lawmakers, who sensed something in the air and chose to deal with it. We can only hope Ohioans do the same.