When the Garden City Commission enacted a ban on smoking in public places, the ordinance became one of the more stringent in Kansas.
For good reason.
In approving the ordinance and its comprehensive set of restrictions, city leaders acknowledged they should not pick and choose who to protect from a known health hazard. Garden City's 2007 ordinance became a model for other communities in that regard.
Unfortunately, a subsequent statewide law prohibiting smoking in public places included notable and unfair exemptions for private clubs and state-owned casinos. Because Garden City's ordinance was more stringent, it was allowed to stay in place.
Recently, however, a group of hoteliers asked the city commission to consider loosening a policy in the local ban that requires all hotel and motel rooms to be smoke-free.
In making the request, the group noted state law allows hotels to designate up to 20 percent of rooms for smoking. They said they're losing business to other nearby towns with smoking rooms.
While such concerns are understandable, efforts to curb smoking are more about health than individual business rights.
Deadly secondhand smoke is a public health issue, and policies should apply to any place workers and patrons gather.
Plus, it's not as if hotel operators across the board in Garden City demanded the change. With new hotels in the works, some may even see the city's strict ban as an advantage in promoting a smoke-free environment and serving patrons who'd rather not encounter smoking rooms.
Anyone who'd argue that Garden City should follow Kansas law in allowing a number of smoking rooms in motels and hotels should know plenty of criticism has been leveled at the statewide policy because of its exemptions and failure to protect all workers from secondhand smoke.
Garden City has no cause to embrace the state of Kansas' flawed approach, and take a step backward in any way.
Instead, local officials should continue to acknowledge the health benefit for all in the community, and resist the temptation to tinker with a ban on smoking in public places that has worked well as is.