Our editorial today remarks on the inevitability (though not necessarily the desirability) of a statewide public smoking ban, because of rather than in spite of the 36 counties or communities that already have smoke-free ordinances of some kind:
But the ironic truth is that the more local smoking ordinances there are, the more likely there will eventually be a statewide ban.
[. . .]
The increase in local bans makes people more familiar with the concept and lessens opposition.
[. . .]
Local control” is still the best operating principle – it assumes that communities know what is best for their residents. But it is not exactly the norm. That is especially true in Indiana, where every ounce of home rule for cities and counties is given up by the state only grudgingly.
But the trend everywhere is bigger and more uniform and more central. States are more powerful at the expense of cities and counties, and the federal government looms over states. As of last month, 29 states, along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, have smoke-free laws in effect. So don’t count out the possibility that there will be a nationwide smoke-free law sometime in the future.
Sure enough, The Richmond Palladium-Item also has an editorial today, saying that “Smoking ban deserves uniform action.”
Persuasive arguments have been waged here and elsewhere, for example, as to whether a private club is deserving of the same privacy protections of an individual’s home, or whether such a club would fall under the broad umbrella of “public places.”
For any anti-smoking effort to survive statewide it is going to have to be relatively simple and very fair, and that can be a tall order, as local governments wrestling with anti-smoking ordinances have discovered.
But how can a state law be both “simple” and also take into account such complexities as the fact that some communities might want to exempt private clubs and some might not? I suppose the law could set a minimum set of rules, which communities would be allowed to exceed in toughness. But that wouldn’t be much different from what we already have, except that no jurisdiction would be allowed the option of having no rules at all. What does it matter to those of in Fort Wayne or to the pooh-bahs in Indianapolis if folks in, say, Spencer County want to accompany their brain-cell-killing excursions with a little smoke? Home rule, it’s a beautiful thing.