Controls On Smoking Are A Long-Overdue Idea

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 21, 1993

Since I am the president of the Group Against Smokers Pollution and many of our members reside in Howard County, I would like to make some comments to support the excellent article by James Coram that appeared in the Feb. 11 edition of The Sun pertaining to new smoking control legislation.

The age of innocence concerning tobacco smoke ended on Jan. 7, 1993. On that date, despite the fact that the tobacco industry used every trick in the book to prevent it, the Environmental Protection Agency declared environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) to be a Class-A carcinogen.

This action gave official U.S. government recognition to a fact that had been common knowledge in the medical and scientific community for at least a decade. It was a very important step because the government has now officially placed ETS in the same category as asbestos, radon, benzene and ion radiation.

It is now illogical and unconscionable that any elected official, union official, employer or merchant could advocate exposing their constituents, clients, employees or patrons to a substance that is a bona fide carcinogen, as well as a substance that the EPA report says can cause life-threatening situations such as angina, asthma attacks, etc.

. . . For years, the tobacco industry has been successfully defending against lawsuits filed by smokers on the premise that the smokers had been warned about the harmful effects of tobacco by the warnings on the cigarette packs. Lawyers can now use that same argument to say that employers and merchants have been adequately warned by the EPA report.

I urge the County Council to pass the strongest legislation possible to protect non-smokers from ETS. . . .

John H. O'Hara

Bowie

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An increasing number of public institutions such as hospitals, restaurants, airlines and corporate offices have limited or prohibited the smoking of tobacco products. . . .

This highly offensive habit, however, should be prohibited from all public facilities in as much as smoking is malodorously incompatible with one's enjoyment of public dining, is the cause of various forms of fire and smoke damage to clothing and furniture, and most importantly, is now conclusively identified as dangerous to individual health.

Smokers argue that any prohibition of smoking violates their civil rights. This is invalid as there is no legal basis for a right to smoke. On the contrary, smoking is an individual privilege in our society subject to basic considerations of courtesy to others. Specifically, a private habit is not a public right when offensive and dangerous to others. For, example, no adult is prohibited from a responsible consumption of alcohol products; however, the law does forbid drinking and driving a vehicle which would endanger others.

Non-smokers also have rights, and one of these is the right to enjoy themselves while dining in a public restaurant. The recent establishment of non-smoking areas in many restaurants is commendable; however, most are ineffective because of their close proximity to smoking areas. The drifting fumes eventually penetrate the entire eating area the way industrial pollution settles on a city . . .

Temporary and sometimes permanent damage to clothing and furniture are by-products of the habits of the inconsiderate smoker. The unmistakable and offensive stench of smoke clings to the clothing of the non-smoker like the unwanted excrement of an animal on one's shoe, necessitating an unexpected cleaning bill. Irresponsible smokers also leave burn marks on one's furniture and clothing from the smoldering ash. No one has a right to damage the property of others!

Finally, and most significantly, is the threat imposed by smokers on the health of others located in the area of their self-indulgence. . . .

This appeal for legislation to prohibit public smoking is not intended to interfere with a smoker's private rights, but to protect the public rights of the non-smoker . . . We have very restrictive environmental laws in this country to maintain clean air -- a prohibition against public smoking would seem to be a justifiable addition.

Edward L. Derreth

Ellicott City

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This letter is in response to The Sun's Feb. 15 editorial entitled "Clearing the Smoke." The editorial comes out against Howard County Councilman C. Vernon Gray's proposal to ban all smoking in the workplace. Mr. Gray's proposal is an extremely good one and how the author sees it differently is beyond logic.

The author writes that the proposal appears "to flow logically from a recent report linking cancer to exposure to second-hand smoke." This study alone should make it obvious that the proposed ban is necessary. . . .

The author also raises two questions, the first being "to how great an extent does county government want to dictate to private enterprise what it does within its four walls?" This proposal is not a question of regulating private industry. It is a question of public safety and health. . . .

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