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Strike a blow for respiratory freedom and expand Pennsylvania's smoke-free law

Publication Date: 2013-06-10
  • Author:Patriot-News Editorial Board
  • Publication:Patriot-News

The famous 19th century American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once described the limits of a person’s individual freedom this way:

“The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

That nugget of philosophical wisdom still offers good guidance today, as Pennsylvania lawmakers consider expanding the list of indoor areas that must be free of smoking.

If Holmes were alive to be asked about the subject, he might say “The right to smoke my cigarette ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

That’s the fair-minded principle behind what Sen. Stewart Greenleaf and Rep. Mario Scavello are trying to do. The two Republican legislators know that second-hand smoke is a hazard to the health of innocent bystanders. They have filed bills to close some of the more glaring loopholes in the state’s relatively weak law to protect Pennsylvanians from involuntary smoking.

When lawmakers passed Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act in 2008, they decided that indoor air didn’t really need to be clean in bars, casinos, nightclubs, truck stops, private clubs, tobacco promotion events, and tobacco handling facilities. They also decided that hotels and some residential facilities like group homes did not need to end all indoor smoking. And just in case any local government outside Philadelphia got uppity and decided its residents deserved more freedom from involuntary smoking, lawmakers banned localities from passing a tougher law...

So Greenleaf and Scavello are right: Anywhere people work indoors should be free of carcinogenic second-hand smoke. It’s unfair to force any worker to choose between keeping a job and being exposed to toxic chemicals in the workplace. Casinos, bars, nightclubs, and truck stops all should be free of smoking...

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