Preserve the public's freedom from involuntary health risks

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In July 2005, the Georgia Smokefree
Air Act became law. The intent of the law was to reduce secondhand smoke exposure for employees and workplace patrons.

Even though all Georgians are governed by this law, the 2005 legislation does not protect all workers and citizens from secondhand smoke.

It falls short of protecting a significant number of business employees, and employees and patrons at outdoor venues, community parks and recreation centers.

It is indeed a matter of individual rights, but the more important right at issue here is the right of children and adults to work in and enjoy public places and events without unwillingly being exposed to a serious health hazard.

IN 2006, AFTER the adoption of the Georgia Smokefree Air Act, the surgeon general’s report The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke revealed that smoke-free policies are the most economic and effective approach for providing protection from exposure to secondhand smoke. Recently, the 2010 surgeon general’s report How Tobacco Smoke Causes Diseases: The Biology and Behavioral Basis for Smoking Attributable Disease substantiated the previous evidence that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.

The 2010 surgeon general’s report describes in detail the ways tobacco smoke damages every organ in the body and causes disease and death. When individuals inhale tobacco smoke, either directly or secondhand, they are inhaling more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are hazardous, and at least 69 are known to cause cancer. The chemicals are rapidly adsorbed by cells in the body and produce disease-causing cellular changes.

The Augusta Commission is reviewing a smoking ordinance that has been discussed so far at two public hearings. The proposed ordinance will not eliminate smoking, but will restrict smoking in public places where nonsmoking citizens’ health is presently compromised because of exposure to secondhand smoke.

IT INCLUDES THE following recommendations:

• Restrict smoking at least 20 feet from all entrances: buildings’ windows, entrances or openings where smoke may filter into a building; outdoor seating areas; and

• Eliminate smoking in service lines where more than one person must stand in an outdoor line.

• Provide no-smoking environments in all enclosed places of employment that employ two or more employees.

• Restrict smoking to 20 feet from the entrances to public parks and recreation center and eliminate smoking inside parks or outdoor venue areas.

The Richmond County Board of Health urges the Augusta Commission to join the governments of our neighbors such as Savannah, Athens and Columbia County in Georgia – and Aiken, Columbia and Charleston in South Carolina – in adopting a meaningful smokefree air ordinance. This proposed ordinance will improve the health of those without protection under existing state laws.

(The writer is chairman of the Richmond County Board of Health.)

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copperhead 10/30/11 - 07:25 am
Can anyone explain why folks

Can anyone explain why folks are more concerned with the .37 pounds of carbon my cigarette smoke puts into our air every year than the 4.5 TONS an suv puts into our air?

bailmeout4 10/30/11 - 08:05 am
Exactly copperhead. Its a

Exactly copperhead. Its a matter of the idea that the house is on fire and your worried about a dripping faucet. There are more important things the govt could be doing to protect the public.

Techfan 10/30/11 - 08:58 am
I don't see it above, but

I don't see it above, but don't the bans include e-cigarettes? If so, it shows this is not about health, it's about control.

Vito45 10/30/11 - 11:08 am
I think e-cigs are included,

I think e-cigs are included, and for the reasons you speculate. They had some lame excuse for including them, I just can't recall it.

skycat 10/30/11 - 01:32 pm
If, in the name of public

If, in the name of public health, someone wants to impose a new law, aren't they required to present some indication of the magnitude of the problem and the expected benefits from the law? Or, are the effects of this "serious health hazard" so slight as to be undetectable? In real life, "no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke" is used to create hazards and solutions that are largely imaginary. The "No safe level" concept eliminates the need for any thoughtful determination of a threshold level of danger before taking enforcement action against the public. It enables legal action against citizens over hazards far less threatening than those considered safe in legitimate science. "No safe level" means "No competence required". It's a guaranteed success story for those in public health and their political pals.

socks99 10/30/11 - 07:39 pm
Dr. Lightfoot, knowingly or

Dr. Lightfoot, knowingly or not, does not present an honest case for the change he advocates.

In reality, the push to make tobacco use illegal is a global one; and laws designed to 'protect' non-smokers are really intended to stop smokers from lighting-up. For instance, there remains little or any evidence that second-hand smoke is a significant health hazard. The reason to expand the current rules is to go after smokers where they most prefer to light-up: bars and clubs. The idea that this new policy is designed to 'protect' non-smokers is untrue.

I am sure global policy makers such as the CDC and their many members imagine their global advocacy will ensure greater budgetary priority in the federal budgets; or at least stave off attempts to cut waste.

The bottom-line remains that smoking is a legal activity, smoking bans are a sort-of 'back door' prohibition, advocates of smoking bans mislead the public about their intentions; and finally, when access to basic healthcare is routinely denied to force-up reimbursement rates, why should the public believe that these professionals really care about public health, anyway?

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