notobacco

All Workers Deserve Smoke-Free Environments

In Local News, State News on February 16, 2010 at 8:35 am

I would like to raise few points concerning Rep. Mark Messmer’s column in Saturday’s paper. While it’s good news that the House passed a smoke-free workplace bill, we have a few problems with the bill as it currently stands. We hope that the Senate will hear these concerns and make adjustments accordingly.

First, the bill pre-empts local governments from passing stronger laws. That means towns, cities, and counties around the state cannot choose to protect more workers than the state law allows.

Secondly, the bill does not protect all workers. It contains exemptions for bars, casinos, and a number of other workplaces. We feel that all workers deserve protection from secondhand smoke, no matter where they work or the color of their collar. Many workers have limited options for employment in today’s economy, so they currently may not have a choice whether to work in a smoky environment.

While I completely support individual freedoms and limited government, freedom does not give license to maim and kill other people. If this were a law about protecting workers from asbestos or any other airborne chemical known to cause the amounts of death and disease that secondhand smoke does, there would be no question whether legislators should pass a law forbidding businesses to endanger their workers in the name of freedom or profits. And I should point out, studies show the hospitality industry does not lose business by going smoke-free.

Ironically, these developments come as 1) the House considers SB 298, which contains a clause that would dissolve ITPC, the independent agency that oversees tobacco control efforts in Indiana funded by tobacco settlement dollars, NOT taxes, and 2) this Through With Chew Week.

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