Blowing more smoke

Augustans still have the 'right' to breathe toxic air

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The Augusta Commission has missed a chance to make the city healthier.

A proposed smoking ordinance, defeated Tuesday by a 3-6-1 vote, would have banned smoking in all public places and some outdoor areas, such as parks and construction sites. It was a Breather’s Bill of Rights.

We understand why some bar owners prefer the status quo: Georgia law bans smoking in establishments that allow patrons and employees younger than age 18. Thus, bars are fair game for smoke – and they get a dense concentration of it. They also argue they should decide whether to allow smokers on their property, and if some customers don’t want to be around smoke – well, they aren’t forced to be there.

The problem is, under that line of reasoning bars and restaurants also should have the right to serve expired, five-year-old mayonnaise, or to wipe down their countertops with DDT. Or to sprinkle shards of glass over entrees, or to serve polluted water.

Do those “rights” sound ridiculous? Of course they do. Responsible business owners wouldn’t dream of endangering the health of their customers and employees. And we have laws prohibiting it, in order to safeguard the public health.

Oops. Shouldn’t that apply to the air, too? Or maybe even
primarily to the air – since we don’t all order the mayo or drink the tap water, but we do all breathe the air?

The tar in cigarette smoke contains – among more than 4,000 identified chemicals – carbon monoxide, cyanide, formaldehyde, ammonia, arsenic and benzene. So, if a bar or restaurant owner legally can’t put such toxic junk in someone’s drink, it shouldn’t be allowed in someone’s air supply.

All our freedoms have limits. And there may not be an endeavor on Earth as tightly regulated as the food service industry. You wouldn’t believe the amount of things restaurants have to remember to do right – from where to put things to what temperature everything must be at any particular time to how to handle food and equipment and more. They don’t have the freedom to store and serve dangerous food. It’s a health issue. And no one is guaranteed the “freedom” to endanger anyone else’s health.

Why should the air be any less safe?

Researcher Paul Mowery measured air quality in 25 Augusta establishments last year for Georgia’s East Central Public Health District, which includes Augusta. Cigarettes burned in 16 of those businesses. Dr. Mowery found the pollution levels in those 16 places were more than 10 times over the limit for outdoor air.

Of course, you don’t have to be a scientist to grasp that cigarette smoke is at the heart of much of that pollution.

There may yet be a way for some operators to cling more tightly to their freedom than to their workers’ and customers’ health: The law could simply exempt private clubs with dues-paying members.

But if you want to invite the public into your place of business, then the public simply – logically – has to be accommodated with a safe environment.

Most every other form of pollution already is illegal. It’s simply amazing that smoking in all public places is not.

The ordinance commissioners voted on Tuesday originally overreached – by trying to criminalize smoking in vehicles with children. That is clearly going too far: As stupid as smoking around kids is, we can’t have the government regulating legal behavior in our cars and homes.

But that provision had been removed by the time commissioners voted down the bill. The final version was reasonable, and should’ve been approved.

Some on the commission appear concerned about burdening the sheriff’s department with enforcement duties. That’s a red herring. Public health officials could be given that task. And besides, as we’ve already seen, it would be largely self-enforcing. Most smokers, as most businesses, don’t want to run afoul of the law or burden their nonsmoking brethren.

We need to revisit this issue – perhaps after the next election.

Comments (34) Add comment
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TParty
6003
Points
TParty 02/26/12 - 11:02 pm
4
8
Yes! Exactly, right on. Well

Yes! Exactly, right on. Well done!

scott-hudson
10
Points
scott-hudson 02/26/12 - 11:12 pm
13
4
Sorry ACES, but this is the

Sorry ACES, but this is the nuttiest column I have ever seen. Patrons in bars (which are virtually the only public places smoking is allowed indoors) are there drinking alcohol. You seem worried about their health by inhaling smoke while sitting and consuming drinks but it doesn't concern you that they then get into their cars and drive after drinking...why not just ban bars altogether...Drunk driving is a much bigger public hazard than a little second hand smoke inhaled by people drinking in a bar or restaurant with age limits on admittance. I am really shocked this editorial made the paper.

scott-hudson
10
Points
scott-hudson 02/26/12 - 11:18 pm
10
3
Oh, and not to be a real

Oh, and not to be a real jerk, but commissioners do not vote on bills, they vote on motions. Congress and the GA General Assembly vote on bills...Geez, are you all letting interns write editorials these days?

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 02/26/12 - 11:33 pm
0
0
So you don't think the
Unpublished

So you don't think the government should tell us what to do in private owned cars or homes but it's ok in private owned businesses...Got it..they also shouldn't build things for newspaper owners to profit from either but hey things happen....

Retired Army
17512
Points
Retired Army 02/26/12 - 11:34 pm
8
1
From the great espousers of

From the great espousers of "limited" government. Scott Hudson is dead on about the quality and consistency of this editorial staff.

Copperhead should be weighing in with his sarcasm shorlty. Something to the effect of going all the way and banning tobacco completley even as a cash crop.

Me I could care less. I droped tobbacco in 1996. Anybody who thinks cigarettes are non-addictive is either ignorant or foolish. Worse than detoxing from morphine after an illness and surgury. You don't want to have to do it.

My stance on smoking and alcohol consumption for myself? It's sorta like the ol' country boy makin' love to a skunk. He may not have gotten all he wanted, but he damn sure got all he could stand.

david jennings
624
Points
david jennings 02/27/12 - 06:59 am
3
0
Just ban lighters and

Just ban lighters and matches, then they can eat the cigarettes. Then you won't notice the raw chicken blood on the salad and the old mayo won't matter.

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 02/27/12 - 07:13 am
0
0
I wonder if the ACES staff
Unpublished

I wonder if the ACES staff hold indoor air quailty in the same high esteem in their facility? Do they monitor CO2 concentrations and air changes in the News Building? Are minimum outside air flows strictly enforced and measured? Any mold in the duct system? Can we send in a health inspector?

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 02/27/12 - 07:17 am
4
3
The quantities of the

The quantities of the compounds you just quoted that can be found in tobacco smoke require machines looking at a molecular level. Those machines would say the same about broccoli casserole probably. I promise you that a lot more people are damaged by the food they eat than the infrequent and short term exposure they have to second hand smoke. Salt and sugar and grease will kill us all eventually. And, how did humans survive for millions of years warming beside campfires, day in and day out, without these laws to protect them? Pussilanimous homo sapiens should be extinct by now.

wtinney
0
Points
wtinney 02/27/12 - 07:20 am
6
4
Okay, Fact: before the health

Okay, Fact: before the health Nazis targetted smoking, the average lifespan rose to 78 years of age and subjective as well as objective measures of quality of life improved immensely.

Fact: Our country was built off the tabacco industry to the point that tobacco leaves are etched into the desks of Congress.

Fact: health Nazis have taken their agenda to the point that a "legal product" in the U.S. cannot be used in any public, outside areas or any establishments that are for public use; also, no entries of doorways (20 foot rule) can you smoke at.

Fact: Health Nazis used government to basically force companies that sell tobacco products to front the money for advertisements aimed AGAINST the use of their legal products. This one particularly chaps my posterior!

Fact: to smoke in a car with a child in it is considered child endangerment or at least neglegence.

Fact: all restrictions to smoking have been legislated - none have been passed by referendum (state-wide).

The list of insanity and absurdness goes on and on!

A nation of freedom??? Hardly. ACES is on Mars with this editorial to say the least.

Riverman1
90290
Points
Riverman1 02/27/12 - 07:25 am
3
7
I could diss radio news

I could diss radio news staffs much more than Chronicle writers. But to the subject, the smoking ban has worked very well in Columbia County.

Riverman1
90290
Points
Riverman1 02/27/12 - 07:23 am
2
9
Bars that serve food can open

Bars that serve food can open on Sunday now. Thus, if you want to just eat and drink in one of them, you can't if you don't want to be around smoke. That's the old, "This lunch counter is private and we can serve who we want," argument.

virgilkane
389
Points
virgilkane 02/27/12 - 07:32 am
3
5
I absolutely agree.

I absolutely agree. Unfortunately this probably won't pass until another five or ten years. Augusta is stuck in the dark ages.

seenitB4
93485
Points
seenitB4 02/27/12 - 07:37 am
4
3
Like I have said on here

Like I have said on here B4...I'd rather drive next to a smoker than a drunk....
I don't smoke & hope I never do.....but we don't ban drinkers...there comes a time when daddy gov. needs to get out of our business.......
BTW I do drink & will continue......I respect other opinions but please let us not tell others what they can put in THEIR mouth....
We are adults here....right??

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 02/27/12 - 07:48 am
0
0
Riverman1, your posts are
Unpublished

Riverman1, your posts are confusing....the smoking ban works well at 0725....yet at 0723 you can't eat or drink without being exposed to smoke?

Pu239
284
Points
Pu239 02/27/12 - 07:52 am
0
0
Hey Virgil....the Danville
Unpublished

Hey Virgil....the Danville Train is waiting....(eyeroll)

smartin1955
16
Points
smartin1955 02/27/12 - 08:16 am
0
0
Chicken Little ran around the
Unpublished

Chicken Little ran around the barnyard day and night screaming, "The sky is falling, the sky is falling". It wasn't falling, and allowing smoking in adults only venues isn't killing anybody! What is in this for the Chronicle, I really couldn't say. But their hysterical support of taking away property rights and common sense is duly noted, over and over and over and over. Astonishing bias! Broken glass in food? Good heavens! My thought is just maybe the publisher of the paper owns a bunch of Johnson and Johnson stock, and he knows his swtock value will rise with a smoking ban? (Nicoderm, Nicorette, Nicotrol, Nicoderm CQ) Or maybe his wife works at the Cancer Society, the best paid pro ban lobby group, who benefit from their Quitline contracts?

smartin1955
16
Points
smartin1955 02/27/12 - 08:22 am
0
0
The Cancer Society is paid to
Unpublished

The Cancer Society is paid to lobby for smoking bans, and to hype the hysteria, and they benefit from bans financially. Kind of like Chicken Little having an umbrella stand.

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 02/27/12 - 08:56 am
3
1
Did everyone miss this

Did everyone miss this part?

The problem is, under that line of reasoning bars and restaurants also should have the right to serve expired, five-year-old mayonnaise, or to wipe down their countertops with DDT. Or to sprinkle shards of glass over entrees, or to serve polluted water.

And I've never liked it when people say: "Fact: Our country was built off the [tobacco] industry" because our country was built on other things that is not acceptable today.

Little Lamb
47918
Points
Little Lamb 02/27/12 - 09:09 am
6
2
From the

From the editorial:

Responsible business owners wouldn’t dream of endangering the health of their customers and employees.

Excuse me, but we are talking about bars here. Alcohol in and of itself (not to mention all the sugar in some of those girlie drinks) has a health risk of its own. By ACES logic, the only bars allowed in town would be salad bars — and with no greasy salad dressings at that!

itsanotherday1
46840
Points
itsanotherday1 02/27/12 - 09:14 am
8
1
If a restaurant advertises

If a restaurant advertises that they wipe the counters with DDT and serve rancid mayonnaise, I can make an informed choice whether or not to eat there. I try very hard to avoid smoking establishments, and am no worse for it. There is nothing to be had in a smoke filled bar that I can't find elsewhere.

GaStang22
910
Points
GaStang22 02/27/12 - 09:23 am
2
1
Wow, the smoking bars must be
Unpublished

Wow, the smoking bars must be the best in town. I mean there aren't very many yet some people seem very very desperate to get into them. Almost like an addiction!!!!!!!

GaStang22
910
Points
GaStang22 02/27/12 - 09:27 am
2
1
Exactly itsanotherday!!!
Unpublished

Exactly itsanotherday!!! Their comparison was weak to say the least. Those smoking bars must have something real good in them for it to be such a big deal and not do like you do and choose another that caters to non smokers. Wonder if its the ones with the naked ladies that are the focus?? It IS the only type where non smokers don't have tons of other options!! lol

GaStang22
910
Points
GaStang22 02/27/12 - 09:34 am
3
1
Little Lamb you are right
Unpublished

Little Lamb you are right about that. At least the second hand smoke isn't going to kill a family of 5 later on the way home who had absolutely nothing to do with the establishment period!!! Not to mention that bar food and beer. Those responsible owners should be forced to serve only salads and water, after all we have to protect grown adults from themselves because they can't make logical choices when given options!!!!!!

rperaza
17
Points
rperaza 02/27/12 - 09:37 am
4
1
If the City Commissioners

If the City Commissioners wanted to REALLY make a difference against smoking they why don't they bar the sale of tobacco products altogether?? Every person that buys a pack knows their risks and yet they still do it. If we are talking about the greater good, then morally we would have an obligation to remove such hazard from the public's reach.

But the REAL reason why we won't do that had nothing to do civil liberties, it has to do with SALES TAX REVENUE!!

Personally I'm a capitalist and believe a business owner should have the right to allow or ban smoking in his establishment. The product is legal. Sales tax is collected therefore it is endorsed by the government, and as long as he posts signs staying that smoking occurs on his property, then the consumer has the right to decide for themselves if they want to spend their money there or not.

This article is juvenile and written with the same perspective that legalizing gay marriage would mean allowing a man or a woman to marry a goat!

Central Ave
0
Points
Central Ave 02/27/12 - 10:05 am
4
5
This editorial gives me hope

This editorial gives me hope that there is actually enlightenment and intelligence at the Chronicle editorial board. Nobody should be given a government license and then operate in a manner that destroys the health of its patrons. And please don't throw up that ridiculous drinking analogy. If I frequent a bar and drink according to the law, nobody gets hurt. If I sit next to some person who is killing himself with tobacco, he also is hurting my health and the health of everyone around him, including the employees who often have no choice where they can work in this economy. The best professor that I ever had said society is built by a struggle between two competing factions......"freedom to" and "freedom from." You should always try to first come down on the side of "freedom to" but there are many cases where that is not the correct thing to do. This smoking issue falls squarely in the "freedom from" category. That is, a person's right to be free from the poisonous air created by cigarettes and cigars is far greater than the smoker's right to pollute the environment. This is the point the paranoid "limited government" types completely miss. They are so wrapped up in that vastly overstated fear that they often fail to properly analyze the issue before them and therefore wrongly come down on the "freedom to" side when the facts clearly say otherwise.
The six people who voted against this did their constituents a great disservice and we all will pay for their foolish and perhaps even immoral behavior by having huge medical bills to pay for those who poison their bodies AND the bodies of the innocent.

JohnRandolphHardisonCain
576
Points
JohnRandolphHardisonCain 02/27/12 - 10:35 am
5
2
Alcohol when consumed in

Alcohol when consumed in moderate amounts does not have negative health effects. There is no safe limit for the consumption of tobacco including second hand smoke. Businesses in Athens are smoke free. Augusta is behind the times. I won't go into the Metro Coffee House for a cup of coffee because of the smoke. I'll phone my order in from the sidewalk. I will patronize business that provide a smoke free environment.

dichotomy
36171
Points
dichotomy 02/27/12 - 10:35 am
5
2
It would be much simpler to

It would be much simpler to allow each bar to decide. That is what they should have done. But they didn't. Anyone who wants to open a no smoking bar is free to do so. I am sure there are a lot of clientele who would patronize such a place. Free enterprise. Give it a try.

I am curious as to why the ACES wants to continue to stir up the no smoking Nazis. And I assume from their last statement that they want to see smoking in bars as a primary issue for the next election. Could it be that they would prefer the voters occupy themselves arguing about smoking instead of keeping their eye on our tax money and who benefits from the sleazy deals in which our commissioners and administrator continuously get us entangled. We know who pays the ACES staff to keep us focused on issues like race and smoking while our tax money is used for the benefit of a small group of high powered money men. We know a lot of real news topics are off limits to the Chronicle staff so maybe that's why they have devoted two pages to an already decided, for now, social issue.

There are a lot more toxic things in Augusta than bar smoke but ACES will never address those. Wonder why? What's next ACES? How about a hard hitting two page tirade on the health hazards of taxpayers stressing out about the Marriott demands that we spend more taxpayer's money on their LLC franchisee's private building which is owned by us only in the sense that we have to make the payments.

Little Lamb
47918
Points
Little Lamb 02/27/12 - 10:44 am
2
5
Rev. Cain posted: There is no

Rev. Cain posted:

There is no safe limit for the consumption of tobacco including second hand smoke.

There are no published data in peer-reviewed scientific journals to back up that assertion.

Little Lamb
47918
Points
Little Lamb 02/27/12 - 10:45 am
7
3
Central Avenue posted: If I

Central Avenue posted:

If I sit next to some person who is killing himself with tobacco, he also is hurting my health.

Then don't sit next to him!

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 02/27/12 - 12:13 pm
2
0
"If a restaurant advertises

"If a restaurant advertises that they wipe the counters with DDT and serve rancid mayonnaise..."

If any establishment creates and serves items that are poisonous, they are shut down.

Places of business and private citizens are not allowed to distribute and serve whatever they want, even with their customers being 100% aware of what they are getting. There's a reason why I am not allowed to sign up for voluntary euthanasia.

For all the people who say smoking cigarettes are legal, it's your own choice knowing the hazards, it's your freedom to consume or not consume- I hope your stance is consistent when it comes to other items and are just as vigilant about ending prohibition in this country.

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