Give Michigan’s smoking ban a chance to clear the air

It’s spring, and everyone’s thoughts are turning to fresh air.

This year, that’s the fresh air of outdoors and, soon, indoors.

Michigan’s smoking ban for workplaces and restaurants will take effect May 1. Organizations are working to help bars and restaurants understand the law.

Despite the outcry from those who opposed this legislation, we predict this smoking ban will be welcomed by most Michigan residents.

It will free people from breathing fumes at restaurants where smoking and non-smoking sections are barely separated. It will protect the health of workers at such establishments. And it will represent a positive step in the image of this state, which had grown into a stubborn holdout as many other states and cities went smoke-free.

We also hope the attention that this law will draw in the coming months will not weaken the resolve of lawmakers, who showed backbone last year in approving this ban.

Already, several veterans groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars are trying to be excused from this law. They say they are private clubs and that members, who have sacrificed much for our country, should be able to smoke if they choose.

The flaw in that argument, as with any public place, is that there are people who choose not to breathe smoke. Employees and other members of these clubs might not want to be exposed to a certifiable health risk. There’s no avoiding reality that secondhand smoke causes cancer.

This new Michigan law already has inconsistencies. It exempts cigar bars and the floors of casinos, part of a political deal that ensured the bill could pass in the Legislature.

Carving out other public places — bingo halls? poker rooms that raise cash for charity? — merely dilutes the law’s intent and force. Lawmakers should leave this legislation alone and see how it plays out.

There will be critics. There will be smokers who insist their rights are abridged. But for most, May 1 will improve their quality of life — and health.

Don’t hold your breath for long. A welcome change is in the air.

— THE JACKSON CITIZEN PATRIOT