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Wed, Nov 19 2008 

Published September 12, 2008 04:39 pm - We can now go into most restaurants and bars to eat or drink and go home without having to hang our smelly clothes in the cellar or garage.

New Pa. smoking law is breath of fresh air for many

The Herald

You all know the saying: Where there’s smoke, there’s fines. What? Oh, yeah, it used to be “fire” before midnight Wednesday — now it’s “fines.”

Thursday morning the new Pennsylvania smoking law went into effect, making a lot of state residents, including me, very happy. We can now go into most restaurants and bars to eat or drink and go home without having to hang our smelly clothes in the cellar or garage.

Even more importantly, we can expect to live longer since second-hand smoke won’t be ruining our lungs and possibly causing cancer in our systems. I feel especially good for employees of those businesses who won’t have to suffer from unwanted smoke inhalation.

Obviously there is a lot of controversy because state legislators didn’t have to guts to put in a full non-smoking law like some other states have done. Why?

All they did was complicate an issue that should have been very easy. And they made an unfair balance for restaurants. Some steady customers of bars who smoke will now go to clubs or taverns where smoke exemptions have been granted. I can’t blame some bar owners for being ticked off.

A complete non-smoking law everywhere would have made it simple. But then again, no one has ever accused our state General Assembly of doing what’s right for the people. They are too often swayed by special-interest groups and campaign contributions.

Some of the legislators — who should be voted out of office next term — will make excuses that it infringes on smokers’ rights. In America, you only have rights until those rights infringe on the rights of others. And the right to live a full life should trump any others.

Don’t think that non-smoking affects businesses that much. Look at Applebee’s or Combine’s, a pair of Hermitage restaurants, that have been smoke-free for some time. They do well. And restaurants and bars in Florida and California, where they have much stricter laws, do just fine.

I spoke with Jeff Hanley, tobacco control coordinator for the Mercer County Behavioral Health Commission, about the subject. He has fielded complaints from several bar owners recently.

“If it were bad for business, it would be something that had been found out in some of the 24 other states that have these laws,” Hanley stressed. “It’s not a bad law, but it’s not comprehensive so I can understand the frustration of some business owners.

“But this is a public health issue. We know that second-hand smoke kills 3,000 Pennsylvanians a year. It is a Class A carcinogen.”

Reportedly, only 22 percent of the people in our state smoke. Unfortunately, there seems to be a jump in college-age kids and that’s sad.

With all we know today about the health-effects of smoking, how stupid do you have to be to start smoking? Ask any smoker; it’s hard to stop. And while addiction can be a terrible thing, so can seeing your children rot away with cancer because you smoked and may have helped kill them.

Let’s hope the new laws for bars will ease that problem since some people may quit smoking rather than have to go outside to puff away.

As I said: I’m just happy that I don’t have to hang my clothes in the garage anymore after leaving a smoky restaurant.

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