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Efforts to roll back Michigan's smoking ban should be soundly rejected

Publication Date: 2012-05-06
  • Author:Tony Dearing, Editorial

In the two years since the smoking ban went into effect in Michigan, a couple of things have become abundantly clear. The first is that the ban enjoys widespread popular support. The second is that it has done what it’s supposed to do, which is rid public places of second-hand smoke, the single most dangerous form of environmental pollution that people are commonly exposed to.

So why would the Legislature be considering not just one, but several efforts to roll back or undo one of the better pieces of public policy to come out of Lansing in recent years? These efforts should be roundly rejected.

We have been strong proponents of the ban, passed in 2009 to prohibit smoking in work places, as well as in restaurants and bars. The public has welcomed it, too. If anything, enjoying the opportunity to experience smoke-free public places has only increased the popularity of the ban. A survey conducted by EPIC-MRA in May 2011 found that 74 percent of those who responded said they supported the ban, up from 66 percent in a similar survey taken in 2009.

But this is not just a question of public sentiment. It’s a matter of public health. The ban was passed to protect employees and customers from well-documented health risks of second-hand smoke. Kenneth Warner, a public health professor at the University of Michigan who has studied tobacco policy since the 1970s, told that “it’s quite possible there’s no general source of environmental pollution as dangerous to so many people’’ as second-hand smoke. Studies of Detroit restaurants done before and after the ban found that indoor air pollution fell 93 percent.

Clearly, the law is creating a more healthful environment for the residents of Michigan, and people love it. Yet the ban is now under assault by GOP lawmakers who don’t like it and are trying to use their majority status to undercut it...