Sunday, October 29, 2006

Another incremental gain for local anti-smoking advocates.

A Tribune front-page story from last Tuesday described stricter smoking rules for school grounds, which were approved on Monday evening by the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corporation Board of School Trustees.

The article has not been archived at the newspaper’s web site.

In essence, the school board voted to prohibit smoking at all times on school grounds, but with an exemption granted to faculty and staff, who may continue to enjoy the privilege of shielding their nicotine habits from view in “designated areas” during the school day.

At Floyd Central, this used to be called the “smokers’ lounge,” or sometimes the “faculty toilet.”

Tribune writer Nicholas Wiselogel attributes the following words to MeriBeth Adams-Wolf, executive director of Our Place Drug & Alcohol Services, Inc., who attended the school board meeting as a representative of the Floyd County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation:

As a learning institution, the benefits of setting a good example for our children speaks for itself.

Sounds like a dangerous precedent, but I mention Ms. Adams-Wolfe and the FCTPC here not to belabor the nuances of the school corporation’s newly altered smoking policy, but to call the attention of readers to the impending influence of the local anti-smoking coalition, and the likely outcome of this blossoming.

Consider this plank from the FCTPC mission statement:

Issuable objectives include: Increase proportion of Hoosiers not exposed to secondhand smoke by increasing number of smoke free policies for employers, schools, restaurants and bars.

Also recall this excerpt from a November, 2005, Courier-Journal article by Alex Davis on the topic of smoking bans, in which New Albany city council member Larry Kochert features prominently:

Larry Kochert, a member of the New Albany City Council, said he is encouraged by Jeffersonville's move to limit smoking.

He said he considered a similar ban for New Albany about five years ago but dropped it after realizing that support wasn't there.

Kochert said public opinion about smoking has changed, though, and he predicts that the momentum from bans in Louisville and possibly Jeffersonville might be enough to turn the tide in New Albany.

Since this article was published, the Jeffersonville ordinance has come into effect, and a similar loophole-ridden metro Louisville ordinance has been considerably tightened.

Although I’m unable to attribute it, it seems that Ms. Adams-Wolfe has since commented in one or the other local newspaper that the groundwork for a smoking ban push awaits the resolution of next year’s city council elections, presumably so as to provide a different council temperament.

If I’m misrepresenting her strategic aims, I apologize, although the point remains the same: We’re probably next in line, and sooner than we may think, for the divisive conflict that has characterized just about all community debates on the topic of smoking in public places.

Given the steady progress of such campaigns, it does not require a fully charged crystal ball to predict that Ms. Adams-Wolfe and her anti-drug coalition partners will be in the vanguard of the local anti-smoking movement, and that in the end, it is likely that they will carry the day and succeed in persuading a future council into implementing some variety of a smoking ban in New Albany.

It’s just my opinion, but smoking ban opponents might want to consider a tactical move now to propose a compromise position to the city council before the sides harden into the familiar all-or-nothing dichotomy that generally has proven to be the prelude to certain defeat for the anti-ban side.

As frequent readers already know, it’s a very tough call for me. I’m inclined neither to support nor to fight any proposal for a smoking ban, because I regard it as inevitable in the current climate.

As an occasional cigar smoker, I’m accustomed to being chased from rooms that are blue with cigarette smoke, and in spite of the obvious hypocrisy, it’s not a problem for me to wait for another time or to smoke on the porch.

At the same time, I strongly believe that the prohibitionist instinct lies at the heart of the anti-smoking movement, and unsurprisingly, there can be no good to come from it for a person who sells beer for a living. Smokers first, drinkers next. Ireland may have banned smoking in pubs, but the countries that comprise the EU are far too civilized to touch the beer flowing from the taps inside.

America? Hard to tell. Any country voting for the likes of George W. Bush -- twice -- is suspect, especially since Prohibition's already been tried once.

(And you were wondering how I'd squeeze a dig at the regime into an article about smoking? Where there's a will, there's a way.)

Either way, it would be instructive and highly entertaining to view the city council’s Gang of Four as currently numbered grappling with a smoking ban. We know that CM Kochert's for it. Is CM Coffey? Coffey's Conjoined councilman Price? If Ms. Adams-Wolfe and associates are intent on waiting for a better moment for action, then perhaps seizing the initiative with a watered-down proposal is the best idea.

Give a little, and get a little. Have we forgotten how to do that here?

Conversely, smokers might consider hitting the patches now to avoid the 2008 rush.


The New Albanian said...

Much in the same way as a stranded traveler puts a message in the bottle, I'm posting this to explain to regular readers that there's a bug in blogger. Yesterday's post has disappeared, as well as one from October 1, both in an effort to appease the error messages. I've saved both, and they'll be reposted whenever this weirdness passes.

I keep telling myself: It's free of charge. It's free of charge ...

The New Albanian said...

The previous comment has now reappeared, but not on the marquee. I've sent a white flag to, and am awaiting surrender terms.