I was surprised to read that a recent survey showed that two-thirds of a sample of 500 Wisconsin residents are in favor of a smoking ban in all public indoor places. The survey was conducted by two organizations that are politically polarized (the Republican-leaning Public Opinion Strategies and the Democratic-leaning Mellman Group). What doesn’t surprise me is that this survey was backed by anti-smoking groups. But it shows that there are less political boundaries between smokers and non-smokers… this is not a partisan issue.
Over the past two years, I’ve changed my opinion on this issue. In the beginning, I always believed that a business should be allowed to make its own decisions about whether or not it allows smoking. Today, I believe that business owners have an obligation to protect their employees from the dangers of second-hand smoke. There are other laws in place that protect people from environmental hazards in the workplace. In many cases, those hazards are usually not as dangerous as cigarette smoke (considering all of the chemicals added to almost all brands of cigarettes today).
I was at a conference last August at the Westin Crown Center Hotel. Westin Hotels and Resorts’ Breathe initiative makes all rooms smoke-free. Their policy is that if any of their employees find any evidence of a guest smoking in his or her room, he or she is charged an extra $200 per night (stay three nights, pay an extra $600). That’s one incentive to not smoke.
Although I think a sample of 500 seems small for such a major issue, I still hope it represents the state in general. Two-thirds is a significant majority; a legislature usually needs that many votes to overturn an executive veto. A constitutional amendment usually needs a two-thirds majority for it to pass. If a two-thirds majority of the state’s citizens favor a smoking ban, then let’s draft and pass the law with no exemptions so that all of us can breathe easier.