Author and behavioral scientist Steve Maraboli has said, “The right thing to do and the hard thing to do are usually the same.”
That quote came to mind recently as we watched the Knox County Commissioners take a bold — but in our opinion, much-needed — step.
The commissioners this week approved on first reading an ordinance that would, if given full approval, prohibit the use of tobacco products on any of its properties, effective Jan. 1, 2022.
And given our view of the courthouse lawn, we don’t expect it to go over easily.
Doing the right thing, though, rarely does.
The dangers of smoking are common knowledge, and one needs only glance at the staggering statistics associated with smoking in the workplace to see that it’s — well — bad.
We won’t argue against the fact that adults certainly have the right to smoke — so long as tobacco products are legal.
Do we wish folks would quit for the betterment of their own health? Sure, but there is no need to lecture grown adults about the dangers of smoking.
There is, however, a fact hard to ignore — one that affects every Knox County taxpayer.
Studies have shown time and again that smoking squashes productivity in the workplace and costs both businesses and government entities millions of dollars in healthcare-related costs each year.
In Indiana, smoking costs more than $6 billion annually, including more than $2.9 billion in health costs and nearly $3.2 billion in lost productivity, according to the state Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Commission.
The annual cost to employers of a smoking employee is estimated to be $5,800 higher than non-smoking employees, including more than $2,000 in healthcare costs and more than $3,500 in lost productivity.
Because we are so accustomed to reading dollar amounts and figures well into the billions, $5,800 per year per smoking employee may not seem alarming — but that becomes $116,000 per person over a 20-year career.
So, yes, smoking is harmful to individual health, and secondhand smoke can be particularly problematic to passersby with respiratory conditions.
But the economics of smoking impact us all.
It wasn’t all that long ago that smoking was commonplace in restaurants, on planes, in newsrooms and businesses; it was just in 2012 that Indiana passed its first-ever statewide smoke-free air law.
But the data is there for the taking now.
And the bottom line is that our elected officials can’t continue to take a hands-off approach to a deadly — and costly — issue.
We’ve seen some in the last few days argue that their rights are being violated as a result of the commissioners’ move, but there is no constitutional “right to smoke.” It is not a protected liberty under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.
You can, however, smoke in the comfort of your own home. When it comes to your property, you get to make the decisions.
County property, on the other hand, must be shared by all of us.