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Should the Ped Mall smoking ban be lifted past 10 p.m.?

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | OCTOBER 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Yes

This week, Poll Position released the results of its national smoking poll. Apparently, 52 percent of Americans "frown on" those who smoke cigarettes.

I wonder what the percentage would look like if it only polled those around drinking establishments past 10 p.m.

OK, I understand the no-smoking-in-the-Pedestrian-Mall policy during the daytime. Nobody wants smokers around their children, and children love the downtown playground and water fountains. When my nephews visit Iowa City, they jump on those slides and ladders faster than their parents would jump on a nearby sophomore lighting up a Marlboro.

Smoking around children is a good reason to confront a smoker. Almost everyone can agree on that. But there are plenty of people who confront smokers for bad reasons.

Many people confront smokers because they are concerned about their own health. Those people are idiots. If you have asthma and go out of your way to get in the fumy presence of a smoker, you're an idiot. Have your friend do it for you, or better yet, mind your own business and walk away. Besides, there are no studies demonstrating secondhand smoke outdoors is harmful.

Most people confront smokers because they're on a moral high-horse. Those people are judgemental assholes. Smokers are adults. They are well-aware that it's bad for them.

Even smokers are more valuable to society than judgmental assholes.

There may or may not be a higher concentration of the latter in IC after 10 p.m., but whatever the case, there will definitely be fewer people who care about whether a person is smoking a cigarette. If you're standing between Brothers and Union at midnight on a Saturday, you probably aren't too concerned about secondhand smoke.

The difference in atmosphere between the downtown playground area at 11 a.m. on a Saturday and 11 p.m. on a Saturday immense. For every seven-year-old girl playing tag on the slides in the morning, there is a 20-year-old girl getting dry humped on the bench late at night.

Anywhere there is reason to expect the presence of children is a bad place to smoke cigarettes. But if you bring your children to downtown IC past 10 p.m. on a Friday, you have to expect certain things. When college-age kids drink with one another, they will yell, they will swear, and they will smoke cigarettes.

That's why there are seldom children in the Ped Mall late at night, and that's why the smoking ban should be lifted after 10 p.m.

— Chris Steinke

No

The reality of the Pedestrian-Mall smoking ban has become a part of downtown life in Iowa City. The past decade has been a haze (pun intended) of polarized arguments for and against the ban on smoking in public, and it's not a debate that will likely ever be settled.

Yet, in any debate, there is a minority and a majority. This year, for the first time since the question was posed in 2001 by Gallup, the majority of Americans are now answering"Yes" when asked whether or not they support a ban on public smoking. As of July, 59 percent of Americans believe eliminating the smoking in public places is a good idea.
And it is.

With a community and economy so dependent on university presence, Iowa City continues to strive toward clean energy, efficiency, and public health. Aside from the direct, adverse health effects of secondhand smoke, public smoking's effect on air quality is also very real. It would be socially irresponsible to permit the further degradation of environmental and public health by lifting the ban on Ped Mall smoking, regardless of the time of day.

City officials have been enforcing the ban on smoking on the Pedestrian Mall for some time now, and there seems to be little buzz (again, intended) concerning the issue. In fact, despite how Iowa City smokers may feel, the ban seems to be working quite well. Regardless of the degree to which the ban has actually been enforced by local police, there have been only six citations in the past month. The ban hasn't met much active resistance. It's clearly a non-issue for most.

The question comes down to an argument of democracy. Proponents of an elimination of the ban downtown would undoubtedly argue that regardless of the majority's distaste for the habit, barring locals from smoking means the un-democratic violation of personal rights. What they fail to consider is the fact that the stability of democracy relies on the perpetuation of a fair and equal system of decision-making. When all's said and done, the question is ultimately, "yay" or "nay?"

For the time being, it seems that America says "yay."

— Samuel Cleary


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