Our View: Perhaps vote is best for smoking ban

It appears the statewide smoking ban will be delayed after opponents quickly organized to get the issue on the November 2010 general election ballot.

A report in Saturday’s Daily Republic noted that Larry Mann, a lobbyist coordinating the petition effort on behalf of a coalition of video lottery and liquor establishments, says he has the required number of signatures to put the issue before South Dakota’s voters. Although the ban is scheduled to go into effect in less than two weeks — July 1 — it will be delayed for another 16 months as both sides gear up for what likely will be a hot election issue.

A little background: The ban was approved earlier this year by the South Dakota Legislature, which determined that smoking shall no longer be allowed in places such as bars, restaurants and video lottery establishments. Although it at first ran into hurdles in the Legislature — the Senate shot down an early version — the ban eventually was pushed through.

We have heard grumblings in the months since.

Those against the ban are upset the Legislature passed the measure. Those in favor of the ban are upset that opponents are going against the wishes of our lawmakers and circulating the petitions to put the issue to a vote.

Here’s the lowdown: No matter what happened in the Legislature, this issue was coming to a public vote. Had lawmakers ended the session without passing an anti-smoking law, smoking opponents would have spent these last few months gathering signatures and seeking inclusion on the 2010 ballot.

No matter what they feel in their hearts, we suspect at least a few members — not a majority, but a few — of the Legislature pushed the issue through knowing full well that the people will have the final say anyway.

We don’t consider it good policy to simply bypass the decisions of our elected leaders. Too, this election will be costly, both to proponents and opponents.

But in the end, perhaps putting this sensitive issue to a public vote is best.

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