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Cigarette smoking can be slow-motion homicide

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By The Staff

Like numerous communities in Kentucky, Campbellsville is seriously considering the important step of prohibiting smoking in restaurants. This is taking place all over the U.S. as people become more and more aware of the serious health consequences of exposure to other peoples' smoke.

In my capacity as a professor at Western Kentucky University for 25 years, I was in Campbellsville many times, teaching students from Campbellsville.

As someone who has promoted the public's health in Kentucky and elsewhere for more than 30 years, I am still surprised by the wiles of the tobacco industry and its supporters. Their approach is to sew doubt in the public health message, to suggest there is controversy when the science is clear, and to debate what is long since a settled issue.

They also tell the "ventilation lie" by convincing elected officials that enclosed smoking rooms can take care of secondhand smoke. In fact, the 2006 U.S. Surgeon General's Report says "there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke and separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke."

The opposition to Campbellsville's smoking ordinance is being mounted by Forces International, an outsider organization and ally of the Bluegrass Institute in Bowling Green, a frequent partner of the tobacco industry. They oppose the smoking ordinance on the grounds of property rights of business owners.

It is not unusual for business owners to be regulated by government when it protects the public health such as storage and temperature of food and ensuring clean drinking water. Just as we have the need to drink clean water, we have the need to breathe clean air.

The 2006 Surgeon General's report on smoking, called "The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke" (http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/secondhandsmoke/report/executivesu....) present conclusive evidence of the harm caused by environmental tobacco smoke. Readers should note the current administration has been cautious in imposing more government on individuals or businesses. However, the evidence of health consequences from secondhand smoke is so overwhelming, the administration was willing to allow health protection to supersede the conservative principle of limited government.

Cigarette smoking is slow-motion suicide, but adults have the right to shorten and diminish their lives in this way. However, cigarette smoking can also be slow-motion homicide, and society has a right and obligation to say no to imposing those dangers on nonsmokers. All workers deserve to breathe clean air.

Richard W. Wilson, DHSC, MPH

Professor and Chair

Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences

University of Louisville

Louisville