Encourage legislators to clear air

Published 4:40 pm Wednesday, May 14, 2008

By Staff
With the state education budget still on the agenda, the Alabama Legislature has plenty left to do on the final day of the 2008 session, set to end Monday. But Speaker Seth Hammett (D-Andalusia) says that among the bills that will be considered before the group adjourns is a bill that could make work settings and many public places smoke free across the state.
The bill, which originated in the Senate and passed there 28-3, would likely go back to the upper chamber for final passage because of changes made by the House committee.
If approved, the bill would make Alabama the 27th state to have a smoke-free statewide law, according to American Cancer Society. Gov. Bob Riley, who gave up smoking last August, said he will sign the bill if it passes the legislature.
Supporters of the ban have said that it would not hurt restaurants and businesses financially, citing experiences in cities with smoking ban ordinances, such as Montgomery and Auburn.
The Alabama Restaurant Association supported an earlier version of the bill, but opposes the ban in its current form. The first bill banned smoking in restaurants and bars. The new bill bans smoking in restaurants and in bars attached to restaurants, but not in stand-alone bars.
Association president Larry Fidel said the bill in its current form would cause people to eat in a restaurant and then leave and go to a bar for an after-dinner drink in order to be able to smoke.
"This does not give restaurants a level playing field," Fidel said.
A smokers' rights group, FORCES (Fight Ordinances/Restrictions to Control or Eliminate Smoking ) Alabama, also opposes the bill, claiming the bill is an attack on personal liberty.
We believe there is sufficient evidence on the dangers of secondhand smoke to dispute the personal liberty claim. Smokers certainly have a right to clog their own arteries and damage their lungs, but they shouldn't also harm non-smokers in the process.
This bill could make all of us healthier in Alabama. Let your legislators know you support it.

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