Aug 3, 2007

Pro-smoking editorial ignores bars and restaurants are workplaces

The conservative editorial board of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus took the opposite tack of most newspapers in the state and came out against House Bill 4163 – introduced by Rep. Brenda Clack, D-Flint – and Senate Bill 109 – introduced by Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor – that will ban smoking in workplaces. The newspaper chose to ignore the workplace aspect of the bill and focused on bars and restaurants, saying it should be the owner’s choice, ignoring the large number of people who count bars and restaurants as their workplace and have no choice but to work under deadly conditions.

This editorial completely missed the fact that second hand smoke is not a nuisance, it’s a public health hazard that kills 50,000 people annually and sickens thousands more. Like Sen. Basham has been saying for the past 10 years that he has tried to get his bill even a hearing, there is no amount of safe second hand smoke. There is also a lot of bull in this editorial about freedom, but why is anyone free to harm someone else? Your freedom should end when the smoke that contains more than 4,000 chemical compounds, many toxic, enters someone else's nose and lungs and causes the damage it does. There is absolutely no debate that second hand smoke is a killer.

Allowing separate smoking sections in bars and restaurants is like having half of a pool chlorinated and the other not: it’s impossible. The editorial is also forgetting that both Basham’s bill and Rep. Clack’s bill ban smoking in the workplace. Why should the many people who work in bars and restaurants be exposed to deadly second hand smoke and suffer from heart and lung disease and die when you in the P & A offices are safe from secondhand smoke? When was the last time someone fired up a smoke in the newsroom, and if they did would you have a problem with it?

Again, the freedom thing is overblown. I would think any reporter or editor who has ever been to a planning commission meeting and watched the local zoning ordinances tell the person who wants to build a restaurant how many parking places he needs to have for the size of the building, how much frontage he must have or how tall his sign must be can possibly talk about the government not being able to regulate something as deadly as second hand smoke.

If you use that logic then we should do away with all those ridiculous and bothersome regulations and laws the local health department has to protect the public's health in the name of freedom. Why should the government be able to tell a restaurant what temperature the raw meat must be stored at, or that an employee must wash their hands after using the restroom or how to handle raw meat?

Certainly not in the ‘land of the free.”

Although it may not have a lot to do with this issue, but Michigan is above the national average for smoking and obesity rates, and both are related. This debate has been held all over the country, and 30 states have enacted workplace-smoking bans, including bars and restaurants. Michigan is above the national rate of obesity, and 25 percent of our residents are obese. Only 11 other states are at 25 percent or above. We rank 12th in the country for Michigan residents who smoke, and only southern, tobacco growing states beat us out, with the exception of Indiana at number five.

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