Smoking at ball games is a health hazardAs an Oriole...

the Forum

January 15, 1993

Smoking at ball games is a health hazard

As an Oriole season ticket holder, health care provider and the son of a deceased chronic lung disease victim, I take issue with Tobacco Institute lobbyist Bruce Bereano's contention that the Oriole Park restrictions on smoking are "regrettable and unnecessary."

In the confines of my assigned seat, sitting behind and slightly above a group of constant smokers is both irritating and unhealthy. Based on my experience, and contrary to Mr. Bereano's observation, the smoke does not dissipate harmlessly into the atmosphere. However, it does agitate and irritate adjacent spectators.

I concede the right of a smoker to damage his or her own body. But I do not acknowledge smokers' rights to allow their secondary smoke to waft into the lungs of innocent non-smokers trying to enjoy our beautiful new stadium.

After watching my father die a terrible, insidious death that was the result of 55 years of cigarette smoking, I am intolerant of people who wish to push their inhaled poisons on innocent bystanders.

In my practice, I have occasion to treat people with limb-threatening vascular problems that have been caused or exacerbated by smoking. I have a problem when lobbyists still insist on refuting scientific data as to the harm of cigarette smoking.

Kenneth L. Hatch

Annapolis

The writer is a podiatrist.

Wanting more

Health costs here are higher than in other Western countries.

People here want more. Who wants to spend three or four years in a wheelchair waiting for a hip replacement?

The complexities of the problems are not resolvable through "managed care" or "spending caps" or additions of more administrators.

Henry Aaron and William Schwartz wrote a very interesting book some 10 years ago, detailing a country-by-country comparison of care provided. They also concluded that no one knows what proportion of gross national product really should be spend on health care and that 15 percent of GNP may not be too much.

Mary O. Styrt

Baltimore

No wheels, no deal

One way to stop the spread of drugs is to make transporting contraband more difficult. The government is already involved in restricting access to our borders and waterways, but once narcotics get in our country, distribution channels are numerous. Since the preferred method of local trafficking is by automobile, shouldn't we focus more on drug dealers' privileges for operating motor vehicles?

One solution seems obvious: anyone convicted of possessing or dealing narcotics should have his or her driver's license revoked. If the dealer is later caught driving without a license, his or her automobile should be impounded and auctioned to the highest bidder. The proceeds would go to state drug rehabilitation centers.

If all 50 states participated in such a program, it would be difficult for drug offenders to get where they have to go. States could also share in a central computer bank to ensure that suspended offenders cannot re-register in neighboring states for driver's licenses.

;/ The concept is simple: No wheels, no deals.

John D. Danko

Baltimore

Government's moral responsibility to the poor

For several years, organizations that advocate for the economically disadvantaged have urged the state to pay special heed to the needs of its poorest citizens.

Among other things, we have said that state income assistance available through General Public Assistance (GPA) and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) should be raised at least as high as the state minimum living level -- the income level recognized by state government as necessary for the maintenance of a minimally decent standard of living.

The GPA program provides the only income support available to some 24,000 desperately poor or physically or mentally disabled Marylanders. The AFDC program provides income assistance to poor, typically unemployed women and their children who live at or below the federal poverty level.

In October, the Board of Public Works approved cuts which rolled back GPA and AFDC payments to their 1988 levels. A GPA recipient will now have to survive on a maximum amount of $154 a month in income support (48 percent of the minimum standard of living level, including federally funded food stamps). An AFDC family of three will receive only $359 a month (66 percent of the minimum standard of living level, including food stamps).

The assault on the state's low-income population could get worse: the General Assembly is likely to consider a number of punitive welfare measures during the legislative session.

Many in our state -- religious leaders, community groups, academics and some elected officials -- believe that government has a moral responsibility to make provision for the neediest and that the needs of the poor should be government's first priority. The impoverished should suffer least, not most, during economic crunch times.

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