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Hard hit recently by the new coronavirus, Madison County suffers perennially from low state rankings in health behaviors — alcoholism, poor diet, lack of exercise, etc. — and health outcomes — infant mortality, cancer, diabetes, etc.

These pervasive problems diminish both our quality of life and our life expectancy.

But we can do something about it.

The time is right to take the state’s no-smoking regulations a step farther here in Madison County by adopting an ordinance that would make Hoosier Park Racing & Casino smoke free.

The county board of health recently raised that possibility and went even further, suggesting that fraternal organizations and bars be smoke free, as well. The board voted in May to seek legal advice about adopting a new smoke-free ordinance.

The county board of commissioners would have to vote to approve such an ordinance.

Twenty-four states, including Illinois, have laws requiring casinos to be smoke free.

But Madison County doesn’t have to wait for Indiana to create such a law. We can lead the way.

Some argue that filtration systems and non-smoking areas in casinos offer clean air for those who don’t smoke. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sees it differently. “Casino, bar, and restaurant workers are more exposed to toxic secondhand smoke in their jobsite compared to other segments of the U.S. workforce,” reads a passage on the CDC website.

Some casino operators fear loss of business if they’re forced to kick the habit, but the CDC says that “75% of regular casino goers want smoke-free casinos.” The National Bureau of Economic Research and the University of Illinois in Chicago analyzed data for the state’s casinos from 1998 through 2016 and found that implementation of the state’s no-smoking order for casinos in 2008 had an insignificant impact on casino revenue.

We didn’t need the coronavirus to teach us that public health should be of the highest priority in Madison County. But the harsh reminder should motivate us to take bold steps to improve our health.

Making Hoosier Park smoke free is a great place to start.