The City Commission cannot avoid its responsibility to ban smoking in restaurants and bars by passing a resolution asking those businesses to ban smoking voluntarily.
Only in commissioners political daydreams is that going to happen.
So at some point soon, an outright smoking ban will come before the Commission, and it ought to be acted on sooner rather than later. All the surveys in the world by the Franklin County Health Department and local anti-smoking activists will only reinforce what Mayor Bill May Jr. pointed out this week: Its a health issue plain and simple.
The ordinarily sensible Commissioner Rodney Williams opposes a restaurant smoking ban because tobacco is a legal product and government should not dictate in a matter of individual personal choice.
Yet the city does not allow the drinking of alcohol an entirely legal product in most public places. It would not allow a city resident to open a facility in his or her backyard where anyone could practice target shooting with entirely legal firearms. Nor would the city allow a restaurant to remain open that sold food prepared in filthy kitchens because of the threat to public health.
A ban on smoking in restaurants and bars is nothing more than city government exercising its power to protect the publics health in public places that already are licensed and regulated by city government.
In an ideal world, of course, restaurants would agree voluntarily to forbid smoking on their premises, in the same way smokers would give up their habit because of the well-known health risks associated with smoking. Again, thats not going to happen, so the City Commission should stop dilly-dallying on the issue, prepare an ordinance (there are plenty of them around to use) and put Kentuckys capital city belatedly on the list of cities and towns where indoor smoking is sharply restricted.