Iowa snuffed out lighting up in public places last year, the Kansas Senate just approved a statewide ban this week –– could Missouri be next?


Iowa snuffed out lighting up in public places last year, and the Kansas Senate just approved a statewide ban this week –– could Missouri be next?

Anti-smokers are likely pleased with what this recent piece of legislation that would prohibit smoking in restaurants, bars, workplaces and government buildings. The Kansas City Star quoted Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius as calling this “the most significant piece of health-related legislation that could come out of Topeka this year.”

Still, even as someone who used to be part of a anti-smoking group in high school, I can't bring myself to support these bans.

Yes, I know smoking and second-hand smoke are horribly bad for you and are leading causes of  cancer, heart and respiratory diseases, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

And I've spoken to bar patrons (as part of research, of course) who've complained saying they don't like going to places where there's a lot of cigarette smoke –– especially after visiting cities like Lawrence, Kan., where their city elected officials approved a similar ban as the Kansas Senate did.

But for how long are we going to keep attacking smokers for our health and budget needs?
Unlike the 1980s when it seemed like smoking was more popular and more heavily advertised in movies and, of course, on billboards, smokers are being treated more and more like second-class citizens.

Even without a statewide ban, smokers are frowned upon in many public and work places. Many times we blame them for some of our health insurance cost increases.

And when we're not shunning them to some corner to puff on their guilty pleasure, many state lawmakers are looking to tax them –– usually as a way to milk more money out of these addicts and put into state budgets.

Even Missouri lawmakers, who have managed to avoid for hiking the cigarette tax for 17 years, are proposing a 94 percent, or 16-cents-per-pack, increase from the current 17 cents tax to 33 cents.

Some lawmakers believe it would generate an estimated $90 million a year to the state's general revenue fund.

As a non-smoker –– who does have a fondness for the occasional cigar –– I shouldn't feel threatened by this. As one lawmaker said, “If you don't smoke, you don't pay the tax.”

Instead, we're going to take those who have long-term addictions and tax them?

Of course we will, because they’re easy money. When you have a true addiction, a tax increase won’t stop you from getting your hands on it.

On the flip side, if lawmakers proposed a way to tax obese people and fast food, many of us would be outraged.

For one, who is calling who “obese,” and two, Americans don't like it when you mess with their fast food.

But hey, if you lose weight and don't eat fast food, you wouldn't get taxed, so what's the harm? And if you've never had a problem with weight, then you're really in the clear. 

And obesity is a real problem in our society, too. It can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, cancers (endometrial, breast and colon), high blood pressure, Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides), stroke, liver and gall bladder disease, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint and gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility).

Once lawmakers are done banishing smokers and taxing them, who's to say obese people aren't next in line to be vilified in the name of protecting our health?

No, I'm with those who argue that if we want to put restrictions on smoking, lets let our local policy makers make that call.

I'm all for protecting ourselves and even our children from the dangers of second-hand smoke. And I think most smokers are all for keeping their habits to themselves and not putting others at risk.

So lets stop vilifying them. And while we're at it, lets leave these bans and others up to our local government representatives.

As our economy worsens, it’s obvious our state leaders  have more pressing matters to worry about.

Maryville Daily Forum