Smoking-ban bill way overdue

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Your Opinions

Thoughts on issues relating to Howard County

September 11, 2005

Last week's issue: Howard County Executive James N. Robey is preparing legislation that would ban smoking in the county's restaurants and bars.

Robey could submit a bill to the County Council as early as next month.

He is weighing the benefit to public health against claims that local businesses would be hurt.

Do you favor a smoking ban in the county's restaurants and bars?

Be smart enough to do the right thing

She was 14 when I met her. Her name was Patty, she was Irish and had beautiful green eyes.

She was 19 when I married her, and she was 58 when I buried her.

She died of small-cell lung cancer. Yes, she smoked. On St. Patrick's Day 2004, her family around her, she sat in the doctor's office and heard the diagnosis that would lead to deep depression, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and, within 14 months, her death.

It was 5/11/05, when I closed those beautiful eyes and opened the greatest void in my life.

There is no cure for small-cell lung cancer, over 90 percent of those diagnosed are smokers or have been around smokers.

Legislation to ban smoking in restaurants and bars is way overdue. It is a myth that there are smoking areas in restaurants; smoke travels, and it submits not just patrons, but employees, to the dangers of smoking.

Let's be smart enough, wise enough and strong enough to pass legislation banning smoking in restaurants and bars.

Let's not close our eyes to this opportunity to reduce cancer, increase our life span and our quality of life.

Jim Adams

Ellicott City

County should take smoke-free path

As a high school student, I find it disturbing that bar and restaurant employees are the only class of workers in Howard County not guaranteed protection from the hazards of secondhand smoke. Many teens work in eating establishments where smoking is permitted.

Even more will do so as they work their way through college or otherwise get out into the work force.

Surely our County Council as well as the business community value the health of our young people.

I'm thankful that leaders like Executive Jim Robey prioritize health and realize that smoke-free is the way to go. I urge the council and everyone who lives and works in Howard County to support clean indoor air. With so many other communities in Maryland going smoke-free, what are we waiting for?

Mokshya Sharma

Ellicott City

The writer is a senior at Mount Hebron High.

Health consequences dictate action

As director of the Howard County Health Department, I wish to publicly state that I am one of the "people urging [County Executive Robey] to do it," that is, seek legislation to ban all indoor smoking in Howard County, as stated in the Sept. 2 Sun article on the topic.

My perspective is solely based on the health consequences of secondhand smoke exposure and my duty to work toward improved public health outcomes. The debate over possible negative economic effects of such a ban is lost on me. However, in my discussion with the executive, I know he is very sensitive to the views on the other side.

It has been well established that exposure to secondhand smoke over years causes chronic diseases, such as lung cancer and heart disease. An increasing body of scientific literature indicates that even small exposures to secondhand smoke may cause changes in blood vessels that increase the risk of heart disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people "at increased risk for coronary heart disease or with known coronary heart disease should be advised to avoid all indoor environments that permit smoking."

We now know that ventilation systems do not eliminate the risk of exposure to toxic components of secondhand smoke. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' 2005 National Toxicology Report classifies secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen, a substance known to cause cancer in humans. No threshold of safe exposure to the carcinogens in secondhand smoke has been established.

Laws to protect people from exposure to secondhand smoke may be likened to laws against drunken driving. Smoking and drinking alcohol are legal activities for adults, but not when they pose health risks to others. All of our residents deserve the same level of protection in situations where they do not get to choose their level of exposure.

Penny E. Borenstein, M.D.

The writer is Howard County health officer.

Support voiced for Robey effort

Some years ago, as a member of an anti-smoking group, I was pleased that we helped get smoking out of Howard County restaurants. Now, Mr. Robey is correct in promoting the idea of getting smoking out of the bars.

When the surgeon general has warnings about smoking on a $30 carton, only an addict or a fool would still smoke and foul the air for those citizens who do not smoke. Mr. Robey is wise and caring; someday perhaps smoking will be illegal in public areas everywhere.

Virginia Bates

Woodbine

Don't subject me to secondhand smoke

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