Oct 15, 2009

Lawmaker says protecting lungs more important than fuzzy dice

LANSING – At least one Michigan lawmaker thinks protecting residents from deadly secondhand smoke is a little more important than being able to hang fuzzy dice from your rearview mirror.

Sen. Tupac Hunter brought up the fact that action on the workplace smoking ban has been put off because of the budget, yet the Senate managed to pass Senate Bill 276 on Wednesday that will allow motorists to hang fuzzy dice, rosaries, scented trees and other items from their vehicle's rearview mirror.

“The last time we discussed this, there were a lot of media reports about how we were so busy dealing or not with the budget that we can’t take up an important issue like banning smoking,” Hunter said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “We are so busy with dealing with all the important issues like repealing the law to remove fuzzy dice from the rearview mirror that we can’t take up this very important issue.”

Hunter, who sponsored SB 460 in June that would place the popular smoking issue on the ballot, said the Legislature needs to do the right thing for the citizens of Michigan and ban smoking in the workplace.

“If we know that secondhand smoke is harmful, let’s ban it; let’s stop playing games,” he said. “Let’s stop twiddling our thumbs and saying, ‘Oh, we are so busy meeting in session for 30 minutes that we can’t do what the citizens of this great state have sent us here to do,’ and that is to pass legislation that improves their quality of life, that protects their health and their safety.”

In May the House approved House Bill 4377 with bipartisan support that bans smoking in casinos and so-called cigar bars. The Senate says it favors a bill with no exceptions, but it has refused to act on any bill.

Hunter said because it had been so long since he has heard any discussion on smoking, he was surprised to get a memo from an unnamed colleague calling for there to be a financial incentive for foster parents to maintain a smoke-free environment to help protect children from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

“So we recognize that secondhand smoke is harmful, but we want to limit a ban on smoking for foster homes,” he said.

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