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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mesquite Nevada Online News Source Mesquite Citizen Journal

Fear and Loathing in Mesquite
Posting Date: 01/16/2012

Michael McGreer

Putting serious issues in the hands of elected officials is risky business since one never knows where their loyalties lay.

Nonetheless, that is what the Mesquite community organization for a Smoke-Free Mesquite is doing when they ask the Mayor and City Council to pass an ordinance banning smoking in local casinos and bars.

Mesquite is already smoke-free in part. Nevada's Clean Air Act currently protects customers and workers in all indoor public places except casinos, bars and brothels. Now the majority of citizens, 72.9 percent according to a University of Nevada statistical poll, want the city council to protect public health and safety. That means eliminating all indoor smoking.

All kinds of myths and fears surround this issue. Jobs will be lost, the economy will collapse, businesses will lose revenue, smoking is a right, and non-smokers can go elsewhere, and so on.

Such opposition is based upon false perceptions of economic catastrophes, or the rights of smokers over the rights of non-smokers. Only, a few would disagree with the overwhelming evidence that smoking, and second-hand smoke in particular, is a killer.

The American Lung Association (ALA) has compiled a number of research papers and information over the past 20 years that refute the notion that casinos and bars would lose revenue.

The overwhelming evidence shows that people want clean environments and will increase business in such environments. According to a November poll by the ALA, local casinos could see a 33 percent gain in gaming revenue if Mesquite became smoke-free.

Health is the big issue. Local residents are spending more each year on health, in part, because of smoking-related illnesses. Even if one does not smoke, they still pay the increases in insurance costs to cover the hospital costs of those diseased by smoking.

In Mesquite every hundred people are paying higher insurance costs because 15 smokers from that 100 drive the costs up. If these costs were reduced, savings would be spent in the local economy, not to mention the lives saved.

In previous discussions with the Mayor and City Councilmen, some expressed a desire to have the people vote on the issue. That approach simply kicks the issue down to a smaller section of the population that votes and ignores the opinions of the majority of the local population, visitors, the youth, and casino workers.

But most importantly, it reflects an opinion that elected officials can get away with kicking health and safety issues to the voters every time it becomes controversial. That's not what we elected those individuals to do.

Then there was the expression, from at least one councilman, that elected officials should not be telling a business what to do. Individuals are elected, among other things, to pass ordinances and legislation that protect and serve the people. And they are elected to enforce those laws.

Certainly, over-regulation is an issue that must be avoided. It's hard to image an environment in which local politicians have refused to solve an obvious public health problem out of unfounded economic fear spun by misguided and ill-informed smoking advocates who are often backed by the smoking industry.

Certainly the casinos and bars should have help from local government in marketing Mesquite as a clean, non-smoking environment. Therefore, any ordinance should be backed by a full faith marketing effort by the city.

City officials are thinking about outsourcing economic development when real-life economic development is right in front of them. Imagine if Mesquite were the first city to become smoke-free. Health conscious individuals would flock to the area to maintain their quality of life, while business owners could increase their customer base and home owners could see their property values grow.

All this increases tax revenue for the city to further invest in growth strategies. And this begins with a smoke-free ordinance and a well-planned and executed marketing strategy.

That's what the vast majority of the people want.Mesquite Nevada Online News Source Mesquite Citizen Journal:

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