Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Not a Smoking Gun, But Still Good News

I was happy to read the latest report from the Surgeon General today, because it supported something I've believed all along:
The U.S. surgeon general handed advocates of smoke-free public places new ammunition Tuesday – a report declaring that separate smoking sections don't protect bystanders from the hazards posed by other people's tobacco smoke.
While not a smoking gun – it's actually a compilation of the best previously done research on secondhand smoke – the report is expected to serve as fresh fodder in a debate that has already led to restaurant smoking bans in states including California, Florida and New York and cities such as Dallas and Austin.

[...]The new report was described as the most comprehensive federal examination of the topic since the last surgeon general's report in 1986, which declared secondhand smoke a cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers.
Tuesday's report concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
Read the whole thing. The report itself doesn't guarantee that any new laws will be passed, but it does provide the incentive for various government entities to do something about the problem. Cities like Plano, which have had separate ventilation systems in restaurants that still maintain a smoking section, are now being told that even that may not be enough.

There are a lot of angles to this story, but I can only speak from a personal one: I'm allergic to the stuff. It may not have shown up on my allergy tests (I'm not sure that I was tested for it, although, oddly enough, I was tested for both cockroach venom and cow dander), but I know what happens to me when I'm around it for any length of time: Watery eyes, sneezing, nasty cough. And I'll never forget the year when I went to TMEA convention and I was given a smoking room at the hotel; that was very much against my wishes, but I didn't raise a stink because its effects weren't apparent until after I got home. But the long and short of it was, I was sick for two weeks afterwards, with what many people described as a "smoker's cough." It wasn't fun, and I would definitely do something about it if a hotel ever pulled that again.

Sure, I feel for the people who have to stand outside in the cold, rain, or whatever to take a cigarette break, but the fact is, smoking is unique among all the bad habits in that it can directly affect the health of others. Some have compared it to, say, drinking, but there's no way that someone drinking across the room can directly harm someone else (and I'm not talking about drunk drivers; I'm obviously totally against that practice). And as far as I'm concerned, there's no excuse for parents smoking in the house when children are present; that back porch is there for a reason.

I'm usually not a big fan of excessive government regulation, but something clearly needs to be done here. I know that the restaurant and convention industries are resisting this (though the article above points to many situations where a smoking ban has had only a negligible effect on business...and this was just outside Las Vegas!). As one of those people who is made sick by smoke, not to mention someone who wants to play a wind instrument in a smoke-free environment, this report only serves to justify what I've experienced in my own life; your mileage may vary.

This idea got neutered pretty quickly: It seemed like a good fundraiser at first: Hold a bikini contest at a popular chain chicken-wing restaurant to create awareness of the necessity of spaying and neutering pets. But the event's title, Hooters for Neuters, raised the ire of city officials, so the Los Angeles Animal Control decided not to accept any proceeds from the contest.

At least it wasn't "REDRUM" or something: A woman in Arkansas was concerned when worms got into her tomato garden, and became even more so when the worms wrote "Hi"on one of the tomatoes.

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