Mar 19, 2009

Crowd jams committee hearing room to show support for indoor smoking ban

LANSING – A packed house took in the testimony Wednesday at the House Regulatory Reform Committee meeting in the first of three planed hearings on the indoor smoking ban that includes bars and restaurants.

An overflow committee room had to be set up to accommodate the crowd, and they watched it on closed circuit TV. Many people showed up to tell their personal stories of the loved ones they have lost from deadly secondhand smoke, and medical doctors showed up to reinforce the science behind their support of the ban.

Tobacco funded lobbyist groups like the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association and the Michigan Restaurant Association floated the debunked claim that a ban will hurt business and put them out of business.

Dr. Greg Holzman, the medical officer from the Michigan Department of Community Health (DCH), testified about the harm secondhand smoke causes. He also told the committee how desperate people are to quit. The DCH Quit Line that offers free nicotine patches and counseling received 65,600 calls in just five days and had to be shut down.

“When you get 65,000 calls to the quit line it tells you people want to quit,” he said. “When you are addicted you reach for any help you can find.”

Dr. David Share, testifying on behalf of the Michigan Medical Society that represents more than 14,000 physicians in Michigan, said the science is why the society supports the ban.

“This isn’t about limiting smoking or limiting the sale of tobacco; it’s about secondhand smoke,” he said. “It causes death and numerous diseases. Cleaning or ventilating the air does not protect people from secondhand smoke.”

The committee will meet again at noon on Wednesday March 25 in room 326 in the House Office Building at 124 N. Capitol in Lansing to take more testimony, and it plans to vote out a bill the following Wednesday April 1. All committee meetings are open to the public.

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