Smoke ban can only bring good
The final stronghold for smokers - the neighborhood 'dive' bar - is about to be remade. But we cannot say we'll feel much nostalgia come January when a new anti-smoking law takes effect.
The latest law, approved by the 2007 Legislature, provides the conclusion to a process that started in Oregon three decades ago to limit the public's exposure to secondhand smoke. Over the years, these incremental changes in local and state laws have prevented illnesses that otherwise would have been caused by such exposure.
The only people left unprotected, at least until January, have been the 35,000 employees of Oregon bars and taverns - places that were exempted from a 2001 law banning workplace smoking. The 2007 Legislature was correct to close the loophole.
To be fair, many drinking establishments in Oregon already have gone smoke-free. But as the Portland Tribune's Jennifer Anderson reported last Thursday, the approaching deadline for all bars and taverns to comply is causing consternation.
We are encouraged to see, however, that the people most affected by this ban also recognize - perhaps reluctantly - the good that can come from it.
From our perspective, these advantages far outweigh any loss in personal freedom. The smoking ban will protect bar employees from a substance that, legal or not, should rank high on any list of workplace hazards. A secondary benefit could be that more people will quit, or reduce, their smoking.
Eliminating smoking in bars and taverns also could be good for business. Nonsmokers, who outnumber smokers 4-to-1 in Oregon, may rediscover their corner tavern once the air is cleared.
Finally, we don't view this ban as an affront to individual liberty. Smokers still have plenty of places to indulge their habit - in their homes, their cars and most of the great outdoors.
But come January, employees in bars and taverns will have the same workplace rights as other workers - and perhaps local watering holes will be transformed in ways their owners and customers can't imagine just yet.