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Lack of smoking ban killing Hoosiers

Publication Date: 11/2/2010
  • Author:Richard Feldman
  • Publication:South Bend Tribune

While serving in government, I learned to never expect a politician to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do. In recent years, that expectation has been validated by lawmakers failing to pass a comprehensive smoke-free statute at the Indiana General Assembly.

Those who voted against these measures failed their constituents and the public's health either due to self-interest or misguided ideology. They ignored the myriad of independent scientific studies and the Surgeon General's Reports of 1986 and 2006 that incriminate secondhand tobacco smoke as a serious health hazard. They disregarded the fact that as America's No. 1 airborne carcinogen, it is the third leading cause of premature death.

They supported bar owners droning on that a smoke-free statute would destroy their businesses despite the fact that abundant studies conducted in at least 13 states, including Indiana, indubitably prove that smoke-free laws do not harm restaurant and bar revenues. My goodness, the pubs in Ireland are now smoke-free, and even they are doing fine...

Let's face it. It's embarrassing for Indiana, one of the unhealthiest states in the country, to be absent from the list of 28 states with comprehensive smoke-free statutes. Surrounding states of Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin all have comprehensive laws. And why hasn't our "health-conscious" Gov. Daniels championed this issue with legislators?

When elected public servants fail to act in the best interests of their constituents or in a manner consistent with the will of the people, it's time for voters to hold them accountable. That's the American way. They need to know that voters want progressive policymakers with the political courage and integrity to simply do the right thing. A smoke-free state needs to be an ongoing election issue.

Shame on lawmakers who don't support smoke-free laws; shame on us if we don't demand that they enact what has become a national standard.