>Smoking Ban in Bessemer…Western Tribune Column

>I’ve gotten behind in posting my Western Tribune columns.

Here is the column from August 15. Let’s hope the council follows through.

The Bessemer City Council is poised to do something really progressive for our city. The public safety committee has endorsed a ban on smoking in most public places including restaurants. Under the proposal, smoking in bars would still be permitted.

While I know that news of this ordinance will not be welcomed by some, the facts are that second hand smoke is estimated to be responsible for 3400 lung cancer deaths and between 22,700 and 69,600 heart disease deaths in this country annually. In addition, each year second hand smoke causes 150,000 to 300,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in infants less than 18 months old, resulting in 7,500 to 15,000 hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

As the surgeon general’s recent report on smoking said, there is no risk free level of exposure to second hand smoke. In fact, as far as human behavior goes, tobacco use is the number one behavior (as opposed to specific causes) responsible for death in America (followed by poor diet and lack of exercise).

While smoking may be considered a right by those who choose to engage in the habit, we must put the health of the public above individual rights in some instances. Childhood vaccination requirements for entry into public school and motorcycle helmet laws are examples where this has been done in the past. And in each case, the result was a positive one.

Some states have enacted legislation banning smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars throughout their states, and several municipalities in Alabama have done the same. Other cities have partial bans like the one proposed for Bessemer.

Regulations like this continue the progress toward a healthier Alabama. Formaldehyde, vinyl chloride and benzene are among the hundreds of toxic chemicals found in second hand smoke and do not need to find their way into anyone’s body. The lungs are one of the most common points of entry into the body for harmful substances, and when just going outdoors exposes us to harmful particulate pollution as has been case recently, we do not need to add to the injury by being exposed indoors as well.

This ordinance will move Bessemer up in regards to environmental sensitivity. Rather than looking at the inconvenience that a partial ban on smoking places on a few, let’s be thankful that our city will be sending a positive message to our children.

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