Rather than, as the capital city, being a leader in banning smoking in most public places, Frankfort is very much a follower on the issue far behind Louisville, Lexington, Georgetown and a number of other Kentucky cities large and small.
But 10-year-old Elizabeth Wood, who suffers from asthma, focused public attention on a smoking ban in a story in The State Journal recently. She also recruited her fifth grade class at Collins Lane Elementary in a petition drive, which obtained 460 signatures in support of a smoking ban.
Elizabeth presented that petition to the City Commission Monday and received a warm reception. Commissioners asked City Solicitor Robert Moore to draft a smoking ban ordinance to be considered at the Commissions May 8 work session.
Judging by the degree of controversy similar ordinances have generated elsewhere, we expect Commissioner J.W. Bryan is correct with his prediction that Both sides are going to swarm.
In the end, though, even unrepentant smokers know that a ban on smoking in public places is inevitable and necessary. Indeed, smoking in state office buildings has been prohibited for more than a decade, and many local private offices and businesses also have banned smoking.
There is no reasonable argument against continuing to exempt restaurants, bars, bingo halls and other public places in Frankfort.
In fact, the best smoking ban ordinance and the fairest will avoid most or all exceptions so there is no confusion among the public. It also will provide for adequate enforcement of the ban and contain penalties sufficiently tough to discourage businesses from evading the ban.
Some restaurant and bar owners will insist a smoking ban will harm their businesses, but that has not been universally true in cities where a ban has been tried over the course of time. If anything, non-smokers and people like Elizabeth who cannot tolerate cigarette smoke are more apt to spend their money where they are assured of a smoke-free environment.
And it will be appropriate for the City Commission to title the official smoking ban The Elizabeth Wood Ordinance for a Smoke-Free Frankfort.