Smoking ban at state buildings is long overdue

As unpleasant as a ban on smoking outside state office buildings will be for some Delawareans, the twofold benefit is irresistible.

The rise in residents’ quitting a dangerous health habit directly linked to their tobacco addiction will continue.

And the residual benefits of slowing the growth of a $1 billion health care tab — almost 40 percent of the state’s budget — created by smoking workers, retirees and Medicaid recipients can be aggressively attacked.

Making government campuses smoke-free removes the state’s dubious role as an enabler of a habit that is both unhealthy and “will heavily burden future generations of taxpayers.”

As is the case with the pace of government innovation, this change precedes private industry moves to discourage smoking on or near the job, after Gov. Ruth Ann Minner pushed for Delaware’s Clean Indoor Air Act of 2002. Since then the state’s largest employers have slowly made their outdoor campuses smoke-free.

But access to secondhand smoke, an equally deadly factor in lung cancers and other costly illnesses, has not been eliminated.

Corridors and perimeters outside state buildings remained smokers’ zones, subjecting nonsmokers to tobacco they arrive and exit state buildings.

The grumblings from workers and others addicted to smoking are expected. But who says that compassionate, fiscally responsible government leadership is painless?

To its credit the state has pledged to promote a suite of programs and alliances for helping Delaware smokers to join so many other residents in gaining the courage to quit.

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