Catch your breath, and try again

Tougher smoking ordinance fails, but fight should continue

No one should be horribly upset at the failure of a tougher smoking ordinance at the Augusta Commission.


Opponents prevailed, dismissing the proposed ordinance in such a way as to kill it, perhaps intending to extinguish all hope. But proponents should use the 6-4 defeat to work harder to find an accommodation that will win the needed six votes. And, after all, they should want to have to make their case and win people over.

Mayor Pro Tem Corey Johnson, who sponsored the ordinance, was understandably disappointed, as were the many supporters in the audience Nov. 5. And truth be told, they deserved better than they got from the Augusta Commission. Like, oh, maybe a little honest debate on the issue.

But we refuse to believe some compromise can’t be reached.

The proposed ordinance would extend the current statewide smoking ban in establishments that admit and employ minors to bars and such that do not.

The original incarnation would’ve banned it in private clubs, such as the American Legion, which was a huge mistake and a profound intrusion into our private lives. What were supporters thinking?

Yet, even with that provision on the way out, the ordinance failed.

Our best understanding of the opposition to it is a principled stand that the government shouldn’t be telling businesses whether to allow smoking or not.

As a conservative page, we understand that point of view. We just disagree with it in this particular case.

The fact is, the government already tells businesses whether to allow smoking or not – thanks to the state law that prohibits it as explained above.

In addition, the government regulates restaurants’ food preparation and many other aspects of commerce.

And, as we’ve pointed out before, if a restaurant was serving up polluted water, the government would step in immediately, as it should. Why is dishing up toxic air any more tolerable?

We would argue it is less tolerable; not everyone orders a glass of water, but we all breathe.

We urge supporters of an expanded smoking ordinance to keep their chins up and work even harder in the coming months to persuade commissioners to their side.

And we would remind commissioners that, by one estimate, 82 percent of residents support the expanded ban – and, by our own estimate, 100 percent of voters breathe.

Johnson intends to start over and bring a new ordinance back to the commission in the first of the year. Between now and then, supporters should stay strong and smart and hone their case as best they can.

Here’s hoping that patrons and employees will breathe easier in the new year as a result.



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