November 18, 2005


Bravo, Fairway, you deserve
my discretionary dollars

by Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell

The balance between personal liberties and the government, and health insurance companies enacting intrusive laws and regulations is a fine line at best.

This holds true for Medicare and Medicaid or private insurance companies being able to hold it over our heads if we decide to engage in legal activities by clotting our arteries with fast food, pickling our livers with a pint of alcohol a day or blackening our lungs with smoke.

But I don’t believe this holds true when one group of people perceive their rights trumping the personal choice of others.

Take the recently enacted smoking ban in Fairway, the sleepy little suburb that is sandwiched between the metros’ larger cities. The ban covers smoking in public places such as restaurants and bars, and it also covers workers in offices. The city wanted the ban and some businesses did not, saying their rights as property owners permits them to allow smoking if they desire.

I am a non-smoker, a militant one, according to some. But I do understand the difference between personal and public rights. One of my smoking sisters recently went to work for a privately owned apartment complex in Sioux Falls, SD. My mother told me that she has to go out to her deck to smoke because they don’t allow residents to smoke in their employee apartments.

“See, I told you that one of these days they would tell people they couldn’t smoke in their own homes,” said my mother, who was forced to quit smoking nearly two years ago after a massive heart attack.

I agree. This does violate that fine line. Although it is still their property, the owner’s employees do pay rent from their salaries to live there and if the owners are going to offer their employees private residences, they should be allowed to do whatever they like in their private lives as long as it is legal and they aren’t destroying property. Yellow smoked walls can always be painted and carpets can be deodorized.

I understand that in the mid-20th century and beyond, smoking was the norm. If you didn’t smoke, you were considered different. Smoking was allowed in theaters, courtrooms and almost every public place. This was recently brought to light in the movie Good Night and Good Luck, where there wasn’t a single scene where the characters weren’t smoking. That’s how life was then. Of course, Edward R. Murrow died of lung cancer.

I was once in minority when I put my foot down and told everyone they could no longer smoke in my home. I was tired of having to give up my health for someone else’s habit. As I grew into adulthood and was away from smoke more, it bothered me more. Not only the smell but every time I entered a house, bar, restaurant or even my workplace that was full of smoke, I became ill. I learned I had developed an allergy and those allergies broke down my immune system, which caused me frequent trips to the doctor for serious colds, bronchitis and several times, walking pneumonia.

Luckily, this was at a time when major corporations, such as the one I was working for, enacted smoking bans in the building. Still, I could not enjoy a drink at a bar, bowl or even spend much time taking my mother to the casinos or to play bingo. I was even limited on how much time I could spend in my mother’s house because although she politely refrained from smoking while I was there, the smoke still hung in the air and I knew she was uncomfortable without a cigarette in her hand.

When malls and then some restaurants started banning smoking, my family railed that their personal rights were being violated. My oldest sister refused to visit anyplace that put smoking restrictions in place.

When I visited Wichita in May for a writer’s conference, I was surprised to learn that this city we big city folks like to refer to as a Cowtown — just because their city is smaller than ours — has some pretty progressive non-smoking laws in place. For the first time in years, I was able to sit in a bar with a group of friends and enjoy a drink and have a meal without the fear that I would wake up the next morning with my eyes swollen shut and my throat dry and sore, knowing a bout with bronchitis was looming in my future.

A woman who obviously didn’t get the fact that there wasn’t a smoker in the entire bar did light up, and the bartender politely told her that it was a non-smoking establishment and she could go outside on the patio. When dozens of eyes glared in the direction of the obnoxious smell, she huffed, “I’ll just go outside and put it out.”

Note to Kansas City, Overland Park, Shawnee, Mission, Prairie Village, Olathe, Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, Kansas City, KS and all of the outlying areas: When a whole metro area bans together to restrict smoking, people will still flock to the casinos and the world will not come crashing down.

As far as I’m concerned, the KC metro is light years behind in the movement to limit public smoking. It was only this year that Kansas City, MO put any kind of a ban in place to protect workers in public buildings. However, the city refused to put any kind of a ban in place on restaurants and bars until 85 percent of the metro cities pass nonsmoking ordinances. Now, that’s some leadership…leaving it to a little burb like Fairway, one with not much to lose except Houlihan’s, the city’s only chain restaurant, to become the leader in this movement.

“Health trumps business,” Fairway city council member Dane Lee was quoted in The Kansas City Star about their ban and concerns expressed by Houlihan’s management. Well, as long as he knows that personal liberties, when they don’t infringe on the rights of others, always trumps everything.

“How would you like it if someone told you that if you continued to eat unhealthy food you wouldn’t be covered by your health insurance?” My family used to ask me these types of questions when we would argue over smoking bans.

“How would you like it if I forced you drink wine when I knew it would give you a headache?” I would retort. “That’s how I feel every time I have to breathe your smoke.”

What’s more important, the personal right to chose to smoke or people who have allergies, asthma, emphysema or other ailments not being able to enjoy their hobbies or be in public places that allow smoking?

I think I’ll check out what Fairway has to offer.

Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell can be contacted at


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