AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
Last Thursday, North Dakota joined an ever growing list of states that have said enough is enough when it comes to smoking in public places as a new state law went into effect that makes it unlawful for smokers to light up in all enclosed public places and places of employment.
While many people may think that the new law prohibits smoking just in restaurants and bars, the list of where it is no longer permissible to smoke is much larger than that. Under the new law, smoking is not permitted in truck stops, guest rooms and common areas within hotels and motels, healthcare facilities, long-term care centers, assisted living centers, licensed adult day care facilities, retail tobacco stores, hookah establishments, workplace vehicles and charitable gambling and gaming licensed facilities.
Further, under North Dakota’s new law, businesses are required to remove ashtrays from smoke-free areas and post no-smoking signage inside buildings and at all entrances where smoking is no longer allowed. In addition, smoking is no longer allowed within 20 feet of entrances, exits, operable windows, air intakes and ventilation systems of enclosed areas.
People who violate the ban can be fined $50 and bars that don’t comply can be stripped of their tobacco and liquor licenses.
While many smokers are no doubt upset that they can no longer light up in bars and restaurants or stand outside a business and have a smoke, the reality is this - non-smokers have rights too. And in fact, the rights of non-smokers to be in a smoke free environment should have always trumped the rights of the smokers.
Even though many of our state’s cities had already passed ordinances banning smoking and schools and government offices were off limits when it came to smoking, unless an individual bar, restaurant or business decided to go it alone in prohibiting smoking, generally speaking, people could light up anywhere they chose. And for whatever reason, the North Dakota Legislature never was up to the task of making the state smoke free.
But thanks to a coalition of concerned citizens, an initiated measure was brought to the state’s voters who overwhelmingly supported going smoke free by 67 percent in the Nov. 6 election.
Yes, North Dakota is now a smoke free state. But now comes the tough part of any law, which is making sure that the law is enforced. It would be wonderful if the owners of the bars, restaurants or other businesses that once allowed smoking within their buildings would take the time and effort to make sure that their customers aren’t just standing outside their doors or other businesses doors and smoking. But unless the consequences are strong enough, that isn’t going to happen.
Nor is it logical that we ask local law enforcement officers to now go on “smoke patrols” to make sure that smokers aren’t loitering around the back doors of bars and other businesses puffing away on cigarettes, when those individuals are well within the 20 foot off-limits of any entrance, exit or window of any business.
In the end, after some prodding and a few fines being levied against those who choose to ignore the law, it will be nice to be able to breathe free.