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Monday, November 06, 2006

Vote Yes on Issue 4. Vote No on Issue 5.

Here's what I wrote about the smoking ban proposals back in April:
Neither Cleveland nor any of the suburbs in Cuyahoga County has banned smoking in bars and restaurants yet, but that hasn't stopped several establishments from going smoke-free. ... If given a chance, the free market will provide both smokers and non-smokers with drinking and dining options that suit their preferences.

The free market might not get that chance, though. A gang of busybodies calling themselves "Smoke Free Ohio" recently submitted petitions to put the issue of a smoking ban before the Ohio General Assembly. In a rare moment of sanity, the General Assembly appears unlikely to enact Smoke Free Ohio's proposal, the Ohio University Post Online reports, so the issue probably will go to the voters in November.

Meanwhile, the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association is gathering signatures for a saner smoking ban proposal, which, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer, would:

...require lawmakers to ban smoking in public places but exempt certain establishments such as bars, bingo halls, racetracks, bowling alleys and closed-off smoking areas in restaurants, hotels and nursing homes. If the language is certified, the group must collect nearly 323,000 signatures to get it on the ballot.

Ideally, the State of Ohio would not concern itself at all with smoking in privately owned buildings, but the OLBA's proposal looks to be the best way to stop the total ban that Smoke Free Ohio is pushing.

Both issues will appear on the ballot tomorrow. Smoke Free Ohio's proposal is Issue 5. The OLBA's proposal is Issue 4. I still oppose government-imposed smoking bans on moral grounds, but there's also a major practical reason to vote no on Issue 5 tomorrow. Issue 5 would favor upscale and outer suburban establishments.

In the wake of Washington's smoking ban, Sharon Pian Chan of The Seattle Times reported:
The effects of the ban seem to vary widely. In some upscale Seattle bars, the ban has attracted new, nonsmoking customers. But owners of some blue-collar neighborhood joints say their business has fallen by half.

Here on the west side of Cleveland, I live within staggering distance of several blue-collar neighborhood joints, and I'd like to keep it that way.

Then there are the loopholes in Issue 5, which tend to favor establishments in the outer suburbs. First, Issue 5 does not ban smoking in vehicles. In Edmonton, Alberta, some bar owners have taken advantage of a similar loophole in that city's smoking ban by parking buses outside their establishments for the use of smoking customers. There's no reason to think that some Ohio tavernkeepers won't do the same, but where is there room to park a bus outside a bar? Not in Cleveland. Not in inner suburbs like Lakewood and Cleveland Heights.

Another loophole in Issue 5 is the retail tobacco store exception, which allows smoking in businesses that derive more than 80% of their sales from tobacco products. However, § 3794.03 (E) states:
Any retail tobacco store that begins operation after the effective date of this section or any existing retail tobacco store that relocates to another location after the effective date of this section may only qualify for this exemption if located in a freestanding structure occupied solely by the business...
If I owned a bar, and I were losing business as a result of the smoking ban, I might consider building a small building in my parking lot and putting a cigarette machine in said building, making it a retail tobacco store. But where is there sufficient land for businesses to exploit such a loophole? You guessed it, in the outer suburbs.

You can find the full text of the proposed law here.

Not only would Issue 5 be an unjust infringement on property rights, it would also hurt businesses in central cities and favor those in outer suburbs. Vote NO on Issue 5, and vote YES on Issue 4.


Blogger Ben said...

Hey Jason - I get your point abotu issue 5 - but I don't understand - would voting yes on 4 pre-empt similar attempts by the tobbacky folks to put in a Constitutional amendment? I pretty much against forcing restaurant owners to have or not have smoking sections and letting the free market decide. It's a moot point for me (already voted) just curious…

6:58 PM, November 06, 2006  
Blogger Jason Sonenshein said...

Since Issue 4 is a constitutional amendment, it would supersede Issue 5 if both of them pass. Issue 4 also would pre-empt municipal smoking bans and leave the decision more-or-less in the hands of the market. Restaurants could allow smoking, so long as it would be confined to a separate section, closed off from the non-smoking section. I don't like Issue 4, but it might be the only way to keep Issue 5 from taking effect, and Issue 5 is much worse.

I won't believe you already voted until I see your sticker(:

9:23 PM, November 06, 2006  
Blogger Ben said...

Ha - I'll go one better - Megan and I were shown dropping our ballots in the box on Channel 12 news this morning (although they recorded it Saturday, when we voted) So there is video proof that I voted!

9:51 AM, November 07, 2006  

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