Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

February 21, 2004

City Council lost in a haze on smoking bill

Sadly, it seems that many City Council members have fallen prey to the tobacco cartel's misinformation campaign ("Council fails to back anti-smoking bill," Feb. 12).

Last year, this very body, as The Sun points out, "overwhelmingly approved" a resolution backing a statewide smoke-free public places bill pending in Annapolis. This time, however, perhaps a smoky haze prevented the nine council members voting against the same resolution from clearly seeing the issue.

But the facts are simple, and needn't be debated under the guise of a hearing aimed at ferreting out the economic facts of smoke-free policies. All independent studies looking at facts such as sales tax data, not opinion, show that smoke-free policies have either no effect or a positive impact on the hospitality industry.

Just look at New York City, which went smoke-free last year. Zagat, the leading national restaurant review and polling organization, found that nearly one in four (23 percent) customers are eating out more often as a result of the smoking ban and three-quarters of patrons said the smoking ban has not affected their patronage decisions.

Similar stories can be found in Delaware, which is enjoying increased business from families and individuals who had been Ocean City visitors but now frequent the smoke-free environs of the First State.

Councilman Robert W. Curran should be commended for standing up for this issue, and for the health and well-being of Baltimore residents, employees and visitors. I hope his colleagues will soon see through the smoky haze and come aboard.

Michael Schwartzberg

Baltimore

HHS is working to fight obesity

As the leader in the fight against obesity, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has the goal of supporting the strongest possible resolution and strategy on diet, nutrition and physical activity at the World Health Organization (WHO) General Assembly in May.

And under the leadership of Secretary Tommy G. Thompson, HHS has successfully raised the issue of obesity to the top of the domestic agenda by speaking the truth and calling on all those with a stake in the issue to do their part to fight obesity in America.

This means individuals and families need to be more active and make better and healthier choices. Industry needs to provide and promote healthier choices for customers and include better information about their products. The government needs to make sure the public has the accurate, science-based information needed to help make good choices.

We also need our scientists to help us better understand the causes of obesity, and provide more information about what we can do to decrease its prevalence.

We are making progress on all these fronts. And just last week, the WHO Executive Board, with the support of 32 nations, unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the passage of a global strategy on diet, nutrition and physical activity.

As the strategy is finalized, the United States will continue to work with the WHO and member states to ensure that the document contains the most scientifically accurate information in guide policy to help consumers.

William R. Steiger

Washington

The writer is special assistant to the Secretary of Health and Human Services for International Affairs.

High time to bring slots to Maryland

I think it's high time our legislators get their act together and pass slots legislation ("States in region seen competing for slots money," Feb. 16). Maryland is not holier than thou; we are in financial straits just like every other state.

I get sick and tired of hearing legislators say that they do not think it's right to fund education from revenues from gambling. What is the Maryland lottery? Gambling. What does the money fund?

I don't see the logic of the claim that slots would take more of a toll on low-income residents than the state lottery does. I'll bet that a large number of those on welfare are buying lottery tickets today.

People are going to do what they are going to do, and the government might as well benefit from it. Why should Marylanders fund the Delaware State Police? We have our own state police to fund.

Maryland is the "Tax It State." If you dream it up, we will tax it. I and every other taxpaying Marylander pay enough taxes to the state through the sales, income and property taxes and other fees that we must pay to live here.

If our legislators feel that slots are not going to happen and have to raise taxes, let the legislators who voted no on slots pay the taxes.

Shannon Travers

Abingdon

Teachers have given everything they can

As a teacher in the Baltimore public schools, I have been caught in the midst of a tempest which neither I nor my underpaid colleagues had any part in creating.

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