Illinois recently joined the growing ranks of states which are banning smoking in public places. While not the historic milestone it should have been (many states have already gone through with full bans), it is a step in the right direction. Illinois is joining an elite group of states nationwide who have finally stood up for the rights of their citizens. Currently 16 states have full bans of smoking in the workplace, 20 have banned smoking in restaurants, and 14 have banned all smoking in bars. In the Midwest alone, Ohio, Illinois, and Minnesota have banned the dangerous habit, with Michigan and Wisconsin suspected to soon follow suit.

But why ban smoking? Most people view smoking bans as a sort of nanny law— a law designed to protect them from their own choices. But smoking bans aren’t nanny laws. They’re about protecting other people from your irresponsible choices. No laws to date have banned smoking in private residences, or on residential property, just in public places where your choices can adversely affect other individuals. This ban will help to reduce the 65,000 deaths annually that occur as a result of second hand smoke1; help to mitigate the increased 25-35% increase in rate of coronary death caused by second hand smoke1; and the 16-19% increase in risk of lung cancer1. This reduced incidence of health problems will also positively effect our economy. Employers will pay $1,300 less per employee for health insurance due to the decrease in secondhand smoke related effects2. Nationwide, $661 million in taxpayer dollars would be saved every year due to the use of government medical aid.2

But the ban won’t only help the health of citizens and reduce the cost to employers and tax payers, studies in states which have already conducted bans have shown that it will help improve business as well. Studies have shown that 75% percent of bar patrons rated a nonsmoking atmosphere as important to their selection of bars, and 91% said they would go to bars more frequently if smoking was completely banned2. California businesses even saw a total of 8.7% increase in growth for restaurants and bars after smoking bans went into effect2.

In the face of such a mountain of evidence on the problems second hand smoke forces onto others, many smoking supporters try to compare smoking to drinking, and claim that if smoking is banned, drinking should be too. The comparison, however, is a false one. One can drink responsibly with friends without adversely affecting their health. In fact drinking in moderation is actually good for your health. As long as those who have been drinking don’t drive, no one’s health is put in jeopardy. There is no such thing, however, as responsible smoking. Any amount of second hand smoke represents a health risk for those nearby.

It’s time for the rest of the States to take responsibility for public health and help the vast majority of their citizens who support smoking bans. Such a move will improve the quality of life we all enjoy, bring in more business to restaurants and bars, and help to reduce the tax burden we all bear as a result of the poor choices made by others. It is time to ban smoking.

-Angry Midwesterner

1 Secondhand Smoke: The Health Risks, SmokeFree Illinois
2 Secondhand Smoke: Economics, SmokeFree Illinois