Blowing more smoke

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Blowing more smoke

Postby Wilberforce » Mon Feb 27, 2012 2:25 pm

Blowing more smoke
Augustans still have the 'right' to breathe toxic air
By Augusta Chronicle Editorial Staff
Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012

The Augusta Commission has missed a chance to make the city healthier.

A proposed smoking ordinance, defeated Tuesday by a 3-6-1 vote, would have banned smoking in all public places and some outdoor areas, such as parks and construction sites. It was a Breather’s Bill of Rights.

We understand why some bar owners prefer the status quo: Georgia law bans smoking in establishments that allow patrons and employees younger than age 18. Thus, bars are fair game for smoke – and they get a dense concentration of it. They also argue they should decide whether to allow smokers on their property, and if some customers don’t want to be around smoke – well, they aren’t forced to be there.

The problem is, under that line of reasoning bars and restaurants also should have the right to serve expired, five-year-old mayonnaise, or to wipe down their countertops with DDT. Or to sprinkle shards of glass over entrees, or to serve polluted water.

Do those “rights” sound ridiculous? Of course they do. Responsible business owners wouldn’t dream of endangering the health of their customers and employees. And we have laws prohibiting it, in order to safeguard the public health.

Oops. Shouldn’t that apply to the air, too? Or maybe even primarily to the air – since we don’t all order the mayo or drink the tap water, but we do all breathe the air?

The tar in cigarette smoke contains – among more than 4,000 identified chemicals – carbon monoxide, cyanide, formaldehyde, ammonia, arsenic and benzene. So, if a bar or restaurant owner legally can’t put such toxic junk in someone’s drink, it shouldn’t be allowed in someone’s air supply.

All our freedoms have limits. And there may not be an endeavor on Earth as tightly regulated as the food service industry. You wouldn’t believe the amount of things restaurants have to remember to do right – from where to put things to what temperature everything must be at any particular time to how to handle food and equipment and more. They don’t have the freedom to store and serve dangerous food. It’s a health issue. And no one is guaranteed the “freedom” to endanger anyone else’s health.

Why should the air be any less safe?

Researcher Paul Mowery measured air quality in 25 Augusta establishments last year for Georgia’s East Central Public Health District, which includes Augusta. Cigarettes burned in 16 of those businesses. Dr. Mowery found the pollution levels in those 16 places were more than 10 times over the limit for outdoor air.

Of course, you don’t have to be a scientist to grasp that cigarette smoke is at the heart of much of that pollution.

There may yet be a way for some operators to cling more tightly to their freedom than to their workers’ and customers’ health: The law could simply exempt private clubs with dues-paying members.

But if you want to invite the public into your place of business, then the public simply – logically – has to be accommodated with a safe environment.

Most every other form of pollution already is illegal. It’s simply amazing that smoking in all public places is not.

The ordinance commissioners voted on Tuesday originally overreached – by trying to criminalize smoking in vehicles with children. That is clearly going too far: As stupid as smoking around kids is, we can’t have the government regulating legal behavior in our cars and homes.

But that provision had been removed by the time commissioners voted down the bill. The final version was reasonable, and should’ve been approved.

Some on the commission appear concerned about burdening the sheriff’s department with enforcement duties. That’s a red herring. Public health officials could be given that task. And besides, as we’ve already seen, it would be largely self-enforcing. Most smokers, as most businesses, don’t want to run afoul of the law or burden their nonsmoking brethren.

We need to revisit this issue – perhaps after the next election.

source ... 1330294561


Central Ave
Monday, Feb. 27 10:05 AM

"This editorial gives me hope that there is actually enlightenment and intelligence at the Chronicle editorial board. Nobody should be given a government license and then operate in a manner that destroys the health of its patrons. And please don't throw up that ridiculous drinking analogy. If I frequent a bar and drink according to the law, nobody gets hurt. If I sit next to some person who is killing himself with tobacco, he also is hurting my health and the health of everyone around him, including the employees who often have no choice where they can work in this economy. The best professor that I ever had said society is built by a struggle between two competing factions......"freedom to" and "freedom from." You should always try to first come down on the side of "freedom to" but there are many cases where that is not the correct thing to do. This smoking issue falls squarely in the "freedom from" category. That is, a person's right to be free from the poisonous air created by cigarettes and cigars is far greater than the smoker's right to pollute the environment. This is the point the paranoid "limited government" types completely miss. They are so wrapped up in that vastly overstated fear that they often fail to properly analyze the issue before them and therefore wrongly come down on the "freedom to" side when the facts clearly say otherwise.
The six people who voted against this did their constituents a great disservice and we all will pay for their foolish and perhaps even immoral behavior by having huge medical bills to pay for those who poison their bodies AND the bodies of the innocent."
• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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