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EDITORIAL: Clearing the air about smoking ban

Publication Date: 2011-11-16
  • Author:EDITORIAL
  • Publication:Rapid City Journal

In the year since South Dakota voters approved a state-wide smoking ban, the overall effect has been hard to measure.

Tax revenues have dropped since the ban went into effect on Nov. 10, 2010. Sales of cigarettes have fallen about 10 percent, translating into a $4 million drop in cigarette taxes.

Gambling in video lottery casinos and in Deadwood has gone down, 18 percent and 7 percent, respectively, losing about $26.6 million in revenues from 2010.

The gaming industry has blamed the smoking ban for the drop in gambling revenues, but the ban's proponents say the bad economy could account for most of the lost revenues.

Smoking, which was falling before the ban was enacted, has continued to drop off. Fewer people are calling the state's QuitLine, which helps people to stop smoking. Only about 15 percent of the state's residents smoke, an all-time low.

The biggest measure of the smoking ban is the absence of second-hand smoke in restaurants, bars, video lottery casinos and Deadwood gambling halls.

A ban on smoking in the workplace had already been in effect prior to the passage of the referred law that expanded the ban. For the past year, nonsmokers have been assured that they would not breathe second-hand smoke wherever they went.

The ban was not without controversy as many business owners felt they should be able to decide how they run their establishments.

But the smoking ban was just one more government regulation to protect the health and safety of employees and customers. No one has the right to jeopardize the health of others. 

The smoking ban was rightly decided by voters as a matter of public health, and it was passed by a 65-35 margin.

There is no going back from the smoking ban. Nor should we want to go back.

The only downside that we can see is the loss of tax revenues since the ban was voted in, but it is unclear if the smoking ban or the economy has been the primary factor in the drop in gambling.

What is clear is the air in restaurants, bars and casinos since the ban went into effect. That’s a positive change that is easy to measure.

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