If you can't fight City Hall, as they say, you also can't fight a state law trumping a city ordinance — especially one as shortsighted and weak as Wichita's 2008 indoor-smoking ban.
The local club owners who failed Tuesday to prevent the statewide law from taking effect in Wichita certainly are entitled to keep up their legal challenge, as are the businesses here and elsewhere trying to fight the state ban on constitutional grounds in Shawnee County.
But smoker-friendly Kansas businesses would be wise to move on and update their business plans. In the wake of Sedgwick County District Judge Jeff Goering's decision to lift a temporary restraining order, odds are the state law is here to stay.
That said, the Wichita business owners are understandably upset. Many went to costly lengths to comply with the city's ban, under which, for a fee, they could allow smoking if they barred minors or built separate and specially ventilated smoking rooms. Now, just two years later, the rules have changed again, thanks to the Legislature.
Though it was all that proponents could get the Wichita City Council to pass at the time, the ordinance failed to account for that inevitable passage of a statewide ban. It also missed the guiding principle of the global anti-smoking movement, which is that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. That's why 34 states passed indoor-air laws before Kansas did, and why even a country such as Greece, where more than 40 percent of adults smoke, bans indoor smoking in public places as of this week.
It's good public policy to keep shared indoor air as clean as possible, just as government uses its regulatory powers to keep restaurant kitchens clean, drinking water pure, toys harmless and workplaces safe.
With cash-strapped Kansas spending $196 million a year on Medicaid to treat tobacco-related illnesses such as heart disease and lung cancer, a statewide indoor-smoking ban is good fiscal policy as well. Studies increasingly confirm that clean-indoor-air laws reduce heart attacks and smoking rates.
And arguments that smoking bans hurt business don't fit the facts. As a Kansas Health Institute study concluded last year: "There are no studies in scientific, peer-reviewed journals that document a consistent negative, communitywide impact on restaurants and bars following the implementation of a smoke-free ordinance."
Exceptions to smoking bans are as much anti-health as pro-property rights, giving some businesses permission to continue putting patrons and workers at risk.
If public health demands that the rules apply consistently to private businesses, that goes double for publicly owned workplaces: As Goering sharply noted this week, the state should not have allowed smoking in state-owned casinos. Correcting that mistake should be the first and easiest thing the 2011 Legislature does.