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Letter to Editor

January 21, 2007

As a former Charleston area resident, I enjoy your informative website. However, the recent op-ed by Jeffrey Sewell (The State) draws some odd conclusions. First of all, our organization has never advocated the prohibition of tobacco products, nor have most serious tobacco control organizations. To conclude otherwise is an inflammatory tactic not based on fact.

Second, your attempt to describe resistance to smokefree laws as “a key battleground in the fight for American liberty” is without merit. I don’t recall any of the Founding Fathers promoting a right to pollute someone else’s workplace because of their drug addiction. Of course, this issue wasn’t addressed because the impact of tobacco smoke pollution was not fully understood at the time. According to former US Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona, “Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard.” Having worked closely with many fine people in the US military for several years, I don’t recall any of them being motivated by the need to protect smoking in public places.

Finally, although bars and restaurants are privately owned, they are by definition – public places. Business owners must safely accommodate the entire public, not only those who don’t care about the harm of tobacco smoke. Ventilation and separation don’t work, and stepping outside for a smoke is not a problem for most fair-minded people. Will you be writing a column about the need to repeal the government mandated, heavy-handed restaurant sanitation codes? Maybe we should restore “freedom” to those who wish to bring dogs into restaurants? Why should mine operators be restricted by safety regulations that cost money? Miners who don’t feel safe can just “get another job.”

Fortunately, most Americans now realize that the ability to poison others in workplaces and public places has nothing to do with “liberty.”

Greg Hartley, Assistant Director
SmokeFree Pennsylvania

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