EDITORIAL: Statewide ban

By NEMS Daily Journal

Most of the major statewide and nationwide health-advocacy organizations having any position on the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoke support a proposed statewide smoking ban in enclosed public places, a move seen as a potentially life-enhancing and life-extending for thousands of Mississippians.
We agree.
The American Lung Association, among others, has urged its community of support and the public to write letters to legislators in support of a ban that would “prohibit smoking in all public places including workplaces, including restaurants and bars. No one in Mississippi should have to be exposed to toxic secondhand smoke as a condition of employment.”
It could add that no one who wants to enjoy a particular public place, including a casino or bar, should have to endure the second-hand poisons exhaled in someone else’s cigarette, cigar or pipe smoke.
A new report released in December by the U.S. Surgeon General says without equivocation that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and heart disease. The Surgeon General said, “Inhaling even the smallest amount of tobacco smoke can damage your DNA, which can lead to cancer.”
Almost 50,000 Americans die from secondhand smoke each year, and the workplace is where many adults are exposed to secondhand smoke. Many more are exposed as they visit those workplaces as shoppers, diners and tourists.
So far, smoking ban efforts related to Mississippians’ health have scored an “F” on nationwide measures of state policy.
The American Lung Association’s new State of Tobacco Control report cites the failures in smokefree air, tobacco control program funding, cigarette taxes, and coverage of tobacco cessation treatments and services.
The U.S. Surgeon General’s new report found “there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke.”
The American Lung Association issued its Smokefree Air Challenge in 2006, but Mississippi has ignored the obvious in not enacting a statewide ban. The state’s inaction elevates the choices of smokers above non-smokers despite evidence that smoking is harmful to all.
Two influential Northeast Mississippi legislators, both representing the home county of North Mississippi Medical Center’s system, chair the oversight committees handling a proposed ban.
The Senate Public Health Committee will consider a bill by mid-week, said Chairman Hob Bryan, D-Amory, a ban proponent.
House Public Health Committee Chairman Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said if a smoke-free bill passes the Senate, he’ll let his committee consider it, even though he opposes the bill.
“I never have liked it,” Holland said. “I’m pretty libertarian on this.”
Holland said he doesn’t smoke, except for the occasional cigar when he’s at home. But he said the government shouldn’t tell people that they can’t smoke in public.
“I can’t imagine going to a casino and folks not smoking,” Holland said in an Associated Press report.
The government, of course, tells people they cannot kill or intentionally harm with other dangerous objects and substances, so why not tobacco smoke in enclosed public places.
We hope Holland – who could become a powerfully influential advocate for a smoking ban – changes his mind.
Bryan supports the proposed ban. He expects a sub-committee and committee vote by mid-week.
In the name of good and better health, we encourage Northeast Mississippians to express their support for a ban to their individual district legislators, both House and Senate.