Editorial: Tobacco ban at City Hall is sensible

Published 10:49 am Thursday, November 29, 2012

Banning tobacco use at Albert Lea City Hall is a natural progression of existing policies of the city government and a good reflection of the people as a whole. We urge city leaders to pass the ordinance already under consideration.

The city already bans tobacco use at city parks, largely based on two premises: 1. that children visit parks and shouldn’t be exposed to the bad influence or secondhand smoke and 2. because smokers leave litter that even the best cleanup crews find difficult to clean up.

City Hall is home to the Albert Lea Public Library, a place children frequent. Smokers like to hang out in front of entrances, particularly in the colder months. Families should not have to walk through a cloud of smoke to gain entrance to the library.

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Moreover, who wants their tax dollars to be spent paying city workers to pick up cigarette butts, cigarette packs and cans of chewable tobacco? It’s important that our City Hall is presentable because many outside firms seeking permits, zoning changes or other city action come through that edifice. That place is a reflection of the standards of this community.

Obviously, with Albert Lea touting itself as a community engaged in the lessons of the Blue Zones, it seems quite out of place to see someone smoking a cigarette on the front steps of City Hall. And a community with healthy living makes a better impression than one with poor health habits.

But there is greater reason why the city should ban smoking, chewing tobacco and other forms of tobacco use at City Hall — and eventually on all city-owned properties. The city government has a responsibility to its constituents to urge them to be healthy, not just for the nonsmokers, but for the smokers. It creates one more reason to quit.

No, City Hall cannot and should not seek to ban smoking in homes or on personal property. But it should be like so many other entities in our city that have kicked tobacco off their property — Alliance Benefit Group, Alamco Wood Products, Riverland Community College, Albert Lea Area Schools, Mayo Clinic Health System, Zumbro River Brand, Freeborn-Mower Cooperative Services, Albert Lea Family Y, The Children’s Center, Thorne Crest Retirement Community and others.

City Hall ought not be far behind the local trend.