accidental existence

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COLUMN: Can I get a price check on public health? March 28, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — emletterman @ 12:41 pm

As my Christian County friends may ave noticed—the Headliner News site is now behind a paywall.
Despite the initial shock, that’s a good thing.
It’s good for our business, it’s good for the newspaper business.

Typically every third Wednesday I post a link to my column.
This week—in my humble opinion—I think my column is exceptionally good and I want to share it.
However, I don’t want my out of county friends to hit the paywall.
Therefore, I’ve decided to post my columns on my blog.
So enjoy friends.

Can I get a price check on public health?

Every once in a while a political quote will catch my ear and make me truly take notice. It happened in 2008 when candidate Barack Obama promised change and to a lesser extent it happened this past Friday at an Ozark candidate forum hosted by the Headliner News.

I posed a question regarding Springfield’s smoking ban to the Ward 3 candidates. While both agreed a decision of that nature in Ozark must be the will of the voters, it was Mike Esterl’s caveat that caught my ear.

An Ozark and Springfield dry cleaning business owner, Esterl said he can say for certain business is down because of the ban, citing a decline in sport-coat cleaning as proof.

“We used to clean a lot more jackets from people who didn’t want to smell like smoke after a night at the bar,” he said.

It’s an interesting angle on the prolonged debate I hadn’t even considered. Springfield media have covered the debate ad nauseam, but each and every story is centered around a bar. Granted a bar is the most logical—and easiest—place to find the story, but Esterl’s comment made me wonder just how the ban affects everyday people who don’t frequent bars.

After a lengthy discussion with my husband on the matter, neither of us could muster even one other business who may be affected by the ban, however, we could think of numerous people the ban benefits.

Did you know the surgeon general has ruled no level of secondhand smoke is acceptable to breath? That’s right—none. A fact that has prompted states like Maryland to take the ban a step further.

“On Wednesday (March 15), the Maryland Senate passed a bill that would prohibit smoking in vehicles when transporting a child under 8 years old,” the New York Times reports.

And cities like New York to ban smoking in all outside public areas. Passed in May 2011, the law made “smoking illegal in New York City’s 1,700 parks and on the city’s 14 miles of public beaches. Smoking is also prohibited in pedestrian plazas like Times Square,” CNN reported.

In fact, 35 states have laws in effect that require 100-percent smoke-free non-hospitality workplaces, restaurants or bars, according to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation’s.

In all, 79.4 percent of the country’s population is covered by local and state laws banning smoking, according to CNN.

Cities across the county have taken to heart the surgeon general’s warning: Secondhand smoke kills. So why is their such an uproar in Springfield? Because for now, the almighty dollar trumps public health.

It’s been almost a year since the ban was passed last April, with more than 53 percent of the vote, and according to published reports, retail sales at local bars dropped 6.3 percent from June to December compared to the same time last year.

Show me the numbers for babies who didn’t die from SIDS, because their mothers were exposed to smoke while in the womb or the numbers for children who didn’t develop respiratory infections and flood our doctors and hospitals. If money is the only factor of concern in this debate, what are the cost savings on a man not developing lung cancer?

But rather than stand up for the health of their city, the Springfield City Council caved to the pressure of the all-mighty dollar and voted 4-5 March 22 against repealing the ban, which will automatically send the measure to a second vote of the people in June. It seems when it comes to smoking, city council believes “no” means “not now, ask me again later.”

Business owners across the nation can manage to make a profit without killing their customers. So can Springfield. Banning smoking in businesses makes society better, no ifs, ands or butts.

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2 Responses to “COLUMN: Can I get a price check on public health?”

  1. Barb Says:

    Great article. I take the “no smoking” for granted, so much so, that when I am in Osage Beach, I am taken back by the smell when I walk in, start coughing and ask where is the furthest from the “smoking section” that I can sit in. Part of it has to do with my migraines and the other part is the smell.

    • emletterman Says:

      I know what you mean Barb—I take it for granted now too. It’s so nice to be able to go to dinner anywhere I want or spend a night out with my friends and not have to come home and immediately shower.
      Smokers say they have the right to smoke. That’s not true—you don’t have the “right.” However, I don’t have the “right” to breathe clean air either. But the way I look at it, what I’m doing doesn’t infringe upon you—smoking infringes upon me.


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