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Cities Should Follow Fultondale's Smoke-free Example

The reason the Fultondale City Council passed such a tough smoke-free ordinance last week wasn't because it wanted to be heavy-handed with businesses in the city. The law bans smoking cigarettes in all indoor public places, including work places, restaurants, bars and private clubs.

The reason smoke-free ordinances are important isn't because people shouldn't smoke. They shouldn't, of course, because of the health problems smoking cigarettes causes, but smokers know they're killing themselves.

The reason Fultondale passed the smoke-free ordinance is because it's a health issue for nonsmokers. The dangers of secondhand smoke cigarettes are just as documented as the dangers of firsthand smoke. The Alabama Department of Public Health says secondhand smoke cigarettes kills more than 800 Alabamians a year. Secondhand smoke cigarettes also causes heart disease, breathing problems and a whole array of illnesses in nonsmokers.

People might say that if nonsmokers don't want to be around smokers, they shouldn't patronize a business -- a restaurant or bar or workplace -- where smoking cigarettes occurs. That misses the point. It may not be a choice issue for nonsmokers who work in those places. That's where their job is. Should they quit their jobs -- in this tough economy or anytime, for that matter -- because they have to inhale smoke cigarettes all day long? Of course not.

This isn't a slippery-slope law, either. Some people ask: "What's next? Are they going to outlaw fast food because it makes people obese and obesity is a health issue?" No, your Big Mac doesn't flow into my stomach and blood, making me fat. But your cigarette smoke cigarettes goes into my lungs, putting me in danger of getting a smoke-related illness.

The Jefferson County Health Partnership is urging other cities in Jefferson County to pass identical ordinances. This is something the Alabama Legislature should do, but it hasn't, despite numerous efforts.

But what do you think? This week's Views poll wants to know. Should other cities in the county pass smoke-free ordinances? Tell us why you voted the way you did; the results of the poll and a selection of comments will be published in Sunday's Viewpoints section.

This is also something we can explore during our weekly chat at 1 p.m. Tuesday.



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