The Right To Breathe Smoke-Free Air



We now have been told that those who support a change in rules regarding smoking in public share-air facilities are "tyrannical health nannies," "smoking police," who "want to rule." These are somewhat interesting points of view, though I question their truths.

First, many existing smoking ordinances do not force a person to change locations unless in a shared-air facility. In other words, if a person chooses to smoke, he or she must join others in an area designated for smokers. Smokers may smoke, but nonsmokers ought to have the right to avoid breathing secondhand smoke.

Second, it simply is not true that smokers hurt only themselves. The evidence is growing and indisputable that secondhand smoke causes problems for those who breathe it. We are talking about sinusitis, asthma, cancers of various forms, allergic reactions, and others (see American Cancer Society website, or literature, for one). The problems caused by secondhand smoke result in a high direct, and indirect, cost in both money and productivity.

Third, the U.S. Constitution practices, procedures and common law, indeed give us many rights and freedoms -- to a point. Our freedoms are, and have been, balanced against the freedoms of others and are limited to various degrees. Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and general welfare are terms that are constantly being redefined by courts and legislative bodies as they deal with conflicting interests.

One could point to anti-pollution, inoculations, automobile safety, education, and alcohol legislation that was passed based on good logic. All the while, some people objected strongly. Things must, and do, change. That is why our Constitution has been able to survive while less adaptable constitutions did less well.

Finally, the editorial in the Payson Roundup had it right. We can all live (figuratively and perhaps literally) with less smoke in indoor public areas if they have share-air. This will be especially true if bars are excluded and some flexibility is built into the ordinance. Smokers have rights. So do nonsmokers.

John Lemon, Payson

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