Although a few local businesses still are protesting Lawrence's ban on smoking in public places, a number of other cities in Kansas and the Kansas City area now are following Lawrence's example.
In the last week, city officials in Garden City and Olathe as well as in Lee's Summit, Mo., have approved smoking bans similar to the one in Lawrence, which prohibits smoking in most public places, including restaurants and bars.
The bans in Lee's Summit and Olathe are particularly interesting because they push Kansas City, Mo., closer to a stricter ban. Officials in that city banned smoking in public places but exempted bars and restaurants until 85 percent of greater Kansas City's population was covered by smoking bans. The move was instituted in deference to bar and restaurant owners who feared they would lose customers to other nearby establishments that allowed smoking.
A loss of business also has been cited by some restaurant and bar owners in Lawrence, but it's difficult to know for sure whether businesses suffered because of the smoking ban or some other economic or management factor. It also is hoped that many of the businesses that experienced a temporary setback as a result of the ban are bouncing back now, two years after the ban was instituted.
On the other side of the coin, there have been many anecdotal reports of customers who greatly appreciate being able to hear music, eat dinner or have a drink in a smoke-free environment. Some of those comments even come from people who live outside Lawrence but come here to enjoy the city's smoke-free venues. Taking away the smoking option also has been hailed by health officials as a benefit for employees.
At any rate, it appears Lawrence is not alone in seeing the benefits of a smoking ban. It will be interesting to look back in 10 or 12 years and see how public attitudes on this issue have evolved. Perhaps we'll mourn the loss of personal freedom - or we might wonder at why people ever tolerated smoke-filled bars and restaurants.