OUR OPINION: Vote will clarify public opinion on smoking ban

Ballot issues deserve to be decided after forming an opinion based on established facts and sound reasoning.

We have examined the facts surrounding Jefferson City’s proposed smoke-free ordinance and subjected them to intense scrutiny.

And we find ourselves torn between two forceful arguments — one largely philosophical and the other primarily practical.

The proposed ordinance — Question C on Tuesday’s ballot — would prohibit smoking “in enclosed places of employment, and enclosed public places,” which would include Jefferson City restaurants and bars.

Proponents and opponents have framed the issue as public health versus government intrusion.

Proponents cite medical evidence that second-hand smoke is harmful, particularly to asthmatics, allergy sufferers and pregnant women.

They point out employees suffer from second-hand smoke, and non-smoking sections and ventilation systems fail to provide adequate protection either for workers or non-smoking customers.

Opponents contend smoke-free decisions should be made not by government, but by individual business owners who have invested their own time and money.

They argue many smoke-free establishments are available, and customers are free to choose where they dine and drink.

We find merit in both arguments.

As government intrusion goes, a popular vote is the most clear, direct reflection of the sentiments of the people; it is not filtered through elected representatives.

An initiative petition effort was the genesis of the smoke-free ordinance, and its outcome will be determined by a majority of Jefferson City residents who choose to vote Tuesday.

Regardless of how the issue is decided, we will be satisfied with the outcome.

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