Court#8217;s decision on ban is about fairness

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 3, 2008

On Wednesday, Ohio’s 10th District Court of Appeals ruled that state health officials did not have the authority to write rules exempting private clubs from a statewide smoking ban that affects veterans halls and private clubs.

It ruled that kind of exemption would have to come from the legislature and not the state Health Department.

And that ruling is the correct one.

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“The courts have spoken, and spoken loudly,” Jacob Evans, a spokesman for the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association, told the Associated Press. The group represents the state’s bar owners and is fighting to make sure there is equity in how the smoking ban is administered.

William Seagraves is a former state commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of Ohio and contends efforts to have the ruling overturned will continue. He told the AP that the group is considering a ballot issue that would exempt businesses that sell little or no food.

“It’s not going to stop,” Seagraves said. “We have clubs that are ready to go down. They can’t make it.”

Regardless of whether Seagraves’ claims are widespread or propaganda for the group’s position, the reality is that the court’s decision is based on fairness to all parties and not whether these clubs are struggling. The bottom line is sometimes some parties are disaffected by court rulings or legislation that serves the greater good and, as is the case here, is fundamentally fair.

Certainly, our veterans deserve the utmost respect from the citizenry. Their sacrifices are understood and their willingness to fight for our freedoms should be celebrated. But there is simply a lot more at play here than allowing veterans to light up in a private club.

After all, if anyone owned a restaurant/bar and was disallowed from having customers smoke, the last thing that would seem equitable would be to give a private club across the street privileges that would create a competitive disadvantage.

That seems pretty basic.

It’s also important to remember that part of the justification for the ban was for the benefit of the workers at these establishments. And, of course, the dangers of working in smoky conditions are just as prevalent in private clubs as they are in public places.

Regardless of how anyone stands on the smoking ban issue, everyone should agree that the law needs to be fair to all operators. If Ohio forbids smoking, then it makes no sense to have a double standard for private clubs.

Ohio’s veterans who believe they fought for the rights to smoke in their private clubs should also remember one important fact. They also fought for a democratic government with a system of checks and balances that includes a court system designed to consider what is most fair to everyone.

Rick Greene is the managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441, ext. 12, or by e-mail at