My father used to sit at the breakfast table huffing down the day's third cigarette while he warned me not to smoke. My grandfather's admonition came from a hospital bed. Dad quit a few years later and is happily still around to drop the occasional missive. Grandpa never came home from the hospital.
I suppose that's a personal way of saying that McLuhan was right. The medium is the message.
In much the same way, a council whose majority still refuses to follow the law laid it down for others last night, passing the first reading of a public smoking ban, five votes to four with Price, Benedetti, Messer, and Zurschmiede voting nay. It was disappointing for some, gush-worthy for others, and surprising to just about everyone.
It should be mentioned that Tommy Kaiser took to the podium to thank the council for exempting his family from the law as tobacco retailers will play by different rules than seemingly every other business in town. Apparently, none of the death and disease statistics quoted and misquoted last evening apply to people who work in that industry. Either that, or the council has decided that their lives aren't worth saving.
Smoking ban? There are so many false claims made by both proponents and opponents that I guess you've got to grab on somewhere and hope for the best. So be it. Get rid of the exceptions and it's equitable. Keep them or add to them and the courts will (and should) decide yet another matter in our community. With enforcement being nearly impossible as the current ordinance is written, it may not matter anyway.
What really does matter is that the council's newfound zeal for public health continues into matters that stand to have a more profound effect on the city and its inhabitants. Nearly 50 percent of the houses in New Albany are rentals, operating as businesses outside the bounds of regulation.
I've never had to call 911 to report smoking related disturbances, although I suppose I could soon. The same can't be said for an unregulated rental market that takes advantage of those who can't do better and provides safe haven for those who won't. The last time I called about a property on my block, the dispatcher described the rental as "the same old place" and informed me I was the third caller that early, early morning as if I'd just won a radio contest. The problem is obvious and has been during several council iterations.
To that end, I mentioned a particularly problematic and vociferous landlord to a council member last night and was assured that her very negative business practices were well understood. They should be. If esoteric reports from oncologists are fodder for council decisions, a walk down the street shouldn't be too much to ask.
The only thing left is to determine whether or not this council has the will to stand up to the inevitable lobby of such deceitful, uncaring opportunists. A refreshingly constructive discussion of rental property regulation during Monday's work session provided evidence that they might. If they do, the smoking ban may come to be seen as a first step in reorienting ourselves toward a healthier future. If they don't, we may as well lay back down, tether ourselves to breathing machines, and wait for the coroner to pronounce our cause of death as proving the critics right one too many times.
Smoking ban gets first OK, by Dick Kaukas of the Courier-Journal