Two competing questions on the November ballot promise to reduce the exposure of Nevadans to secondhand smoke, a proven health hazard that needs to be addressed in the state. But one initiative goes too far, too quickly.
The Clean Indoor Air Act, represented by Question 5, has been endorsed by health groups such as the American Heart Association. It would prohibit smoking in almost every indoor public area such restaurants, retail stores, theaters, all bars with a food-handling license, school buildings and school property, malls and all sections of grocery stores.
A competing measure, Responsibly Protect Nevadans from Secondhand Smoke, represented by Question 4, is backed by the gaming and tavern industries. It bans smoking in areas of restaurants where children are not allowed, school property, hospitals and other areas, though it is less restrictive than Question 5. Lighting up at a slot machine in a convenience or grocery store, however, would still be allowed.
While both initiatives tout good intentions, Question 5 is too severe to be enacted at once. Its limitations could instantly damage the very industries that drive Nevada's economy and keep taxes low for its residents. Though we don't agree with every political effort of the gaming industry, it should be commended for proposing an alternative measure, instead of digging in its heels and denying the threat of secondhand smoke.
Citizens should have as much freedom to smoke as they do to not exercise, eat poorly, or any other legal, unhealthy activity. The growing limitations upon smoking are similar to attacks upon gun ownership, free speech and freedom of the press. The more ground that is given through restrictions, the more likely an outright ban will occur. While some anti-smoking advocates would prefer to see tobacco outlawed entirely, we feel that effort goes beyond government's role.
By approving Question 4, Nevadans will be exposed to secondhand smoke in fewer places, but not to a degree that burdens business.
No anti-smoking measure should force law-abiding bar owners to quit serving food. If the Nevada State Legislature decides more smoking restrictions are needed in the future, the door remains open.
- from The Lahontan