Thursday, November 29, 2012

Tid Bits

County needs to butt out when it comes to smokers

“I think it’s time for us to get serious about this,” he declared recently.
Well, I think it’s time we got serious about power-drunk politicians who believe they can tell the little people how to live.
Someone ought to remind Supervisor Hyland that there are still a few Americans left who cling to quaint notions about personal freedom. That includes the freedom to engage in stupid, self-destructive acts as long as they are legal.
Last time I checked, we could roller skate down a flight of stairs if we wanted a thrill. We could ingest nothing but Girl Scout cookies until we slipped into a diabetic coma. And we can curl up on the couch every night to watch the latest installment of “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” instead of heading to the gym.
None of these dopey activities are any of the government’s business.
If a private employer wants to hire only nonsmokers, vegetarians or teetotalers, fine. The U.S. Constitution was designed to restrain government – not private entities – from stomping all over our rights.
Determining the best strategy to reduce the health risks associated with secondhand smoke at home raises complex issues. What should be the government’s role in reducing smoking in private homes or cars, especially when children’s health is at stake? Increasingly, evidence shows a health threat from smoking in an adjacent housing unit, like an apartment, where toxins from secondhand smoke seep through walls, ductwork, windows, and ventilation systems. Should smoke-free laws be extended to include multiunit private housing? Should smoking in a car be banned when children are present?
Alternatively, what kind of encouragement would help people voluntarily ban smoking on their own? Given the challenges of adopting a smoke-free home, is there value in supporting families who take a gradual, more incremental approach – starting small, say, by not smoking in front of children or establishing a single smoke-free room – as worthwhile steps on the path to going entirely smoke-free? Or does this confuse the message because only a total ban on secondhand smoke will protect children’s health?

A study detailed in the most recent New England Journal of Medicine confirms what opponents of tobacco litigation said all along — the government makes money off of smokers, and could spend more if enough of them quit.
The argument was dismissed as ghoulish at the time, and it still is. But a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the financial impact of a 50-cent-per-pack increase in cigarette taxes shows that while cutting the number of smokers trims government outlays over the short run, the increased longevity and higher end-of-life expenses of non-smokers eventually would cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars more from Medicare and Social Security.
 It shuts loopholes that allowed customers to light up in establishments that designated themselves smoking bars, in special rooms set aside for smokers or in beer tents, among other things. The center-left state government said the original ban had so many loopholes it didn’t effectively protect nonsmokers.
In future, exceptions will be allowed only for private parties.

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