Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Where there's smoke...

To be honest, I'm getting a little burned out over writing about smoking stuff. I think my position on this issue is sufficiently obtuse and therefore is in no need of clarification. However, a couple stories from last week are worth mentioning.

First, the Sun writes about the election implications of the proposed smoking ban. As I've said before, I don't think candidates are going to win or lose many votes based on their position on this bill, but it is interesting to see the flack councilman David Rakes is taking for reneging on a campaign promise:

(Rakes) told Glenn Schneider, legislative chair of the Howard County Smoke Free Coalition, he had not met him until after winning the primary.

"One of the first things you did was say, 'Are you against smoking? Sign this.' I hope you can appreciate how elated I was winning a hard-fought election," Rakes told Schneider. "If somebody said, 'Sign this check,' I probably would have signed that, too."

But Schneider, who testified for the bill, held his ground, replying that Rakes was given the pledge before the election, and had time to deliberate before signing it.

"You signed that pledge in August 2002, prior to the election. No one forced you to sign that pledge," he said. "You did sign that. I know you got votes" as a result, he said. "I was very happy to vote for you."

..."If I'm voted out of office because of my vote on this issue, then so be it," Rakes replied defiantly. "We need people to be leaders and do what is right."

It's good to see Rakes actually take a firm stand on something, even if it is a reversal from his firm stand of three years ago.

Meanwhile, near the end of the same article, my position that this isn't really a big vote changing issue is validated by a college professor.

Donald F. Norris, professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, agreed with Robey (that politicians, like Rakes, are free to change their minds).

"If the smoking ban were a really, really big thing, and there were large groups for and against it and someone changed their mind, it might be a big thing," Norris said. "I don't see this as being one of those issues.

"We elect these people to use their brains. Occasionally, they actually do that. Positions are nuanced. I don't see the fact that an elected official changes their mind as a bad thing."

Finally, a letter to the editor in the Washington Post provides an interesting and articulate take on this issue. I've included it in full below, so no need to click the link, unless you need to verify my honesty (Please do!).

I must disclose the following. First, I am not a smoker. Second, I have lost a spouse to cancer. Third, I have been a steady and frequent contributor to and supporter of the American Cancer Society.

When I returned home recently from a beautiful afternoon of hiking in Patapsco State Park, I found a misleading flier from the American Cancer Society inside my front door. The flier was misleading because it encourages the reader to call a County Council member to demand a vote for smoke-free restaurants and bars in Howard County.

Howard has been a leader in smoke-free elevators, workplaces and restaurants. Just a few years ago, bar and restaurant owners were required to build expensive partitions between bars and dining areas to keep the dining area smoke-free. All restaurants in the county are smoke-free. People who choose to work in and patronize bars where smoking is legal know the risk before they enter the establishment.

When are we going to stop bullying people and businesses for individual agendas? Smokers have rights. Business owners have rights. People who don't smoke have the right to patronize establishments where smoking is not allowed and avoid bars where smokers congregate.

The misleading propaganda distributed Sunday afternoon would have you believe that all restaurants in the county allow smoking when they do not. I am alarmed by the use of my contributions to the American Cancer Society to print and distribute such false and disingenuous information. This is not research, and it is not prevention. This is a heavy-handed attempt to control a segment of the business community and its adult patrons.

If I receive another one of these false and misleading fliers, I will stop contributing to the American Cancer Society and find a nonprofit group that is less invasive and more truthful where my contributions will be used more effectively.

1 comment:

ralston said...

Nice analysis, Hayduke. Like you seem to be, I am wary of zealots of any kind--whether it's those who support smoking bans, or those supporting abortion rights, right to life, and on and on. Keep on promoting thoughtfulness and nuance, we need more of it.