Country-wide indoor smoking ordinance
I enthusiastically endorse the efforts of the Ottertail County commissioners to enact a indoor smoke-free ordinance. Over the past few weeks we have heard and read diverse opinions regarding this act. We will continue to hear more views for the n...
I enthusiastically endorse the efforts of the Ottertail County commissioners to enact a indoor smoke-free ordinance. Over the past few weeks we have heard and read diverse opinions regarding this act. We will continue to hear more views for the next few weeks. Whatever else we hear - or read - we all must remember that this issue is first and foremost a health issue: protecting the public from serious health risks due to secondhand smoke. That is why this ordinance has the unqualified support of medical groups including oncologists, optometrists, dentists, doctors and nurses. It also has the support of health educators and public health personnel. All reliable, unbiased studies show that tens of thousands of people die annually from the effects of second-hand smoke; and tens of thousands more live with chronic disease and deteriorating health because of their exposure to secondhand smoke. There is no accurate measure of the grief, fear, and economic hardship that accompany the illness and death of these victims - hardships which are shared also by their loved ones. We do not know the effects from loss of income, worker absence, or diminished productivity because of smoke in the workplace. It does not account for the well-grounded fears of those who serve us in restaurants and bars when they go to work or when they come home, smelling of smoke, with burning eyes and raw throats.
A few would continue to say that its an economic issue, and the cost to restaurants and other businesses is too great to allow an ordinance. I assure you that ALL reliable studies refute this argument. The economic cost lies not in closed businesses but in health-related expenses, higher insurance premiums, and increased absence from work. Again, there is no independent study that shows widespread loss of business income; quite the opposite is true, in fact. The overwhelming number of studies show increased food sales, more jobs and more liquor licenses issued.
There is overwhelming public support for the ordinance. Independent polling done by NDSU shows that 80% of area citizens want some kind of ordinance now. Also, the largest group of our citizens report they would frequent food and beverage businesses more if they were smoke-free. Experience with ordinances in other parts of the country affirms that this really does happen. Approval of the smoke-free ordinance adopted by Moorhead a year ago has improved from 63% a year ago to 83% today.
All of us know that it is the duty of government to protect the health of its citizens. Many of us remember back a couple of decades ago when we determined that the manufacture and use of asbestos-related products were damaging to health of those exposed. The government, at an expense of billions of dollars, removed asbestos from buildings and stopped manufacture of asbestos-related products. Many lives were saved. Everyone now believes it was the right thing to do - and I agree, as you do. What we have here is a similar issue, dealing with a product that puts people at risk in enclosed spaces. But the solution requires no huge building renovation or temporary closure of businesses, and - most importantly - will not cost billions of dollars. It is free: there is NO financial cost. It seems to me to be a classic win/win solution. It will improve the health of at-risk workers; there is a real possibility of increased business activity, and there is no public expense. Lets do it!
The members of the county commission do listen. They do want to hear from you regarding this important health initiative. I would urge you to visit with your commissioner, or call, write, or e-mail your commissioner. Taking a few minutes to do this can help solve an important public health issue.