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ND State Fair right to reject tobacco-free day

For now, at least, the ND State Fair Board is right to pass on the idea of a tobacco-free day during the State Fair.

Tobacco-free advocates with Minot’s STAMP, the North Dakota Health Department and Bismarck tobacco prevention coalition had asked the board in July to designate the Family/Military Day at the 2020 State Fair as tobacco free. The board took it under advisement but ultimately decided such a policy would be too difficult to enforce.

And it is. The number of smokers is too great for the limited number of law enforcement officials who are free to police smokers at the fair.

We understand the passion that STAMP members have for changing the culture and eliminating smoking. Smoking is, after all, a filthy, harmful habit.

Perhaps in this case there is room for compromise; two thoughts come to mind.

STAMP and the fair board could work together and designate, then clearly mark, smoking and non-smoking areas throughout the fairgrounds for one day during the fair. The fair board at least appeared to consider STAMP’s proposal. Perhaps they’d be open to giving designated areas a try next year.

Secondly, STAMP and its supporters could try floating a volunteer tobacco-free day and promote it heavily – T-shirts, public service announcements, social media and the like. The fair board could be asked to help with marketing. Simply ask people who use tobacco to not smoke or chew on a certain day while at the fair. Perhaps it will become day one for some new non-smokers. Quitting usually comes in baby steps, and this could be the one for some people.

Silly? Well, it would be – or could be – more effective than simply having a booth at the fair and calling for a limited ban on smoking.

Anti-smoking, anti-tobacco and anti-vaping advocates are making progress and we wish them even greater success. They should not give up or get discouraged. The more people they win over, the fewer smokers there are and the easier it will be to patrol an area as large as the State Fairgrounds and enforce the rules or laws evenly.

Perhaps some day the fair board will feel comfortable enough to make every day “Tobacco-free Day at the Fair.” Today is clearly not that day.

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