Monday, November 26, 2007

Warning to Wichita from Ohio

Yesterday an Ohio resident felt strongly enough about smoking bans to write this letter of warning to Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and then forward it to me. This letter should serve as a warning to St. Louis bar owners and political leaders as well.

Dear Mayor Carl Brewer:

I read on Topix that Wichita is considering a smoking ban. I am an Ohio resident, and last December, my state voted in an all encompassing ban. I do not speak for any group because I do not belong to any. I can tell you that if your experience mimics Ohio ’s, then what you hear from the SmokeFree organization promoting these bans does not tell the complete story. I have three friends who own local bars, and after many years of successful operation in the community, they are quickly failing now that winter is here.

Some have resorted to simply allowing smoking again. In Ohio , the ban is enforced through an anonymous snitch line and reported to the Ohio Department of Health. Since enforcement began in May, only a few establishments have incurred actual fines. Nearly all of the fines have been appealed, and only one $100 fine has been collected. The cost to the state for the appeals is $350, costing the state of Ohio $250 to collect each $100 fine. Many bar owners have decided to simply allow smoking again and eventually pay the fine rather than allow their businesses to go under.

In the beginning, two counties applied for hardship because they could not afford the extra personnel to enforce the ban. Enforcement then went back to the state. Since May when enforcement began, five more counties have claimed hardship, bringing the total number of counties calling for State, rather than county enforcement, to seven.

SmokeFree always promises that non-smokers will come in droves once smoking ends. That is a blatant lie in Ohio . Bars and restaurants with a high smoker population have seen NO increased business from non-smokers. So, where does that leave Ohio and other states and cities considering smoking bans? It leaves them with laws that are increasingly unenforceable and businessmen with the dilemma of deciding whether to break the law or simply close their doors.

When the Ohio ban was voted on, it included an exemption for private clubs. Many private clubs saw a golden opportunity for increased business should the ban be passed, so they supported it. As soon as the enforcement began, the ACS and SmokeFree filed a complaint against the private club exemption, and it was granted. So, the people of SmokeFree duped the private clubs and promptly turned on them.

Ohio’s law had no rules of enforcement at its onset. They wrote the rules as they went along, thus the six month period from vote until enforcement. Many non-smokers do not support this ban. It turns fellow citizens against each other through the anonymous reporting system. Many calls are, in fact, the result of a disgruntled customer or business competitor and are false. What you read and hear from the powerful people who march into community after community with lies about the effects of smoking bans is simply not true and is designed to fool some of the people most of the time. I urge you to look more deeply into the effect of smoking bans upon the actual people living under them before taking Wichita down the same path as Ohio . Thank you