Monday, July 7, 2014

'This kind of sloppy defiance reeks of a Podunk attitude,' Hopkinsville paper says after fair doesn't enforce smoking ban

It's been a while since we read an editorial as clear, blunt and well-taken as the one the Kentucky New Era ran about the flouting of Hopkinsville's smoking ban at the Western Kentucky State Fair, so here it is, in its entirety:

The Hopkinsville ordinance that bans smoking at most indoor public places is not enforced at the Western Kentucky State Fairgrounds convention center. That became clear last week during the fair. Despite assurances from the fair board’s leadership that smoking ban violations would be addressed, at least a few people continued to smoke cigarettes throughout fair week inside the convention center.

This is a shame on so many counts.

First, it makes a joke of the smoking ban that is intended to ensure the city’s indoor public places are healthier for everyone, especially for children and for adults who don’t smoke and don’t want to be exposed to secondhand smoke. If the fair board cannot get in line with a smoking ordinance 18 months after it went into effect, why should any store, office or restaurant in the city that’s opposed to the ban go along with it?

Second, by refusing to enforce the ban, the fair board is ignoring the fact that hundreds of people who do not smoke and do not want to be exposed to secondhand smoke will now see the convention center as one of the most undesirable places in the city. It seems to say something about the fair board’s opinion of the building. Is it that negative?

Third, the smoking violations put the fair board in conflict with the no-smoking signs the board itself must have authorized for the building’s front and rear doors. What was the purpose of the signs? It looks like window dressing to anyone who passes the threshold and then finds someone smoking in the middle of the building in the middle of the day.

Fourth, the smoking violations put the fair board in conflict with city government. The convention center and the fairgrounds are inside city limits. The smoking ban applies to the convention center. The building is not an island or a special place set off to itself.

During fair week, the convention center is one of the most public places in the city. Thousands of people, including children, pass through the building for pageants, talent shows and gardening and home goods competitions.

The fair board ought to play by the rules and respect the process that resulted in Hopkinsville City Council’s approval of the smoking ban.

If the fair board won’t obey the ordinance, city officials need to enforce the ban. If they don’t, they will risk having more people behave as if the law does not apply to them.

This kind of sloppy defiance reeks of a Podunk attitude.

That’s not the reputation Hopkinsville wants or deserves.