Businesses might be getting the option to decide whether or not to allow smoking in their establishments. Both sides of the issue have valid and strong cases. Ultimately, businesses should be able to make the decision for themselves, however, I don’t think that many will decide that this new bill will change how they run their establishments. Allowing private businesses to make their own decisions for themselves is the essence of what New Hampshire stands for as a state.

Representative Robert Hull has proposed House Bill 279, which would overturn a decade-long ban on smoking in privately owned, but still public places. If passed, this bill would give places like restaurants, grocery stores, small businesses and even busses the right to allow people to smoke inside.

To be clear, the bill would not force any establishment to allow smoking on the premises. It would only allow for the business owners to decide if they wanted to allow smoking or not.

Hull said the goal is to make the state a “smoking tourist destination,” which could help New Hampshire bring in a lot of money. According to nh.gov, for every pack of 25 cigarettes, the state collects $2.23 in taxes.

Adam Urquhart / Opinions Editor Tim Smith / Photo Editor

Adam Urquhart / Opinions Editor
Tim Smith / Photo Editor

Per New Hampshire state law, a person must be over the age of 18 to buy any tobacco products or lighters. The Keene Sentinel reported just a few weeks ago that Keene vendors have been complying with the laws and not allowing the sale of tobacco to minors.

Critics of Bill 279 include the American Cancer Society and some New Hampshire residents. Their arguments stand on the grounds of public safety and health. Nearly 9,000 New Hampshire residents were diagnosed with cancer last year, and while some say people can choose not to go into the establishments, others say the workers are being forced to ingest the second hand smoke.

On the other hand, people in favor of the bill say they would love to be able to light up over dinner again. Hull said, “It’s always been my pet peeve that we are in the Live Free or Die state and we are not allowed to light up in a restaurant.” Restaurants have only had a ban for about a decade. Many patrons probably remember the days they could smoke in businesses that allowed it.

This bill comes on the heels of both Maine and Massachusetts, legalizing recreational marijuana. While Vermont and Montreal have both previously legalized medical marijuana, New Hampshire is now surrounded by states that have legislation about marijuana, while it does not have any. Making the state a “smoking tourist destination” could help to bridge the gap in how much money it is bringing in through taxes in comparison to the other states that surround it.

Ultimately, the bill is just giving the option for establishments to decide whether or not they allow smoking inside. Since these places are private, the owner has every right to make that decision for their own business. If they have a problem with it, citizens concerned about secondhand smoke can simply go to a venue that does not allow smoking.

If the bill were to  pass, the majority of restaurants would probably not change their stance on smoking, but for the few that do, they could appeal to more clientele and bring in more customers from out of state. This bill is for the benefit of businesses, and whether or not you or I like it, the decision is up to each individual establishment.

Alyssa Salerno can be contacted at asalerno@kscequinox.com