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Citizens need to support smoke-free Ohio

Tuesday, September 2, 2008 12:07 PM EDT

Do you love living in a smoke-free Ohio?

I know I do. It has been great since the law passed in 2006 to go out with my family to restaurants and public places that were once filled with secondhand smoke.

You may not know that a group of Ohio senators are trying to take this away from us. They have introduced Senate Bill 346 in an effort to weaken the strong smoke-free law we worked to pass.

It upsets me that our lawmakers are not respecting their constituents’ votes and looking out for the health of all Ohioans.

Issue 5 passed with the approval of nearly 60 percent of Ohio voters which included the same percentage of Lawrence County voters. The American Cancer Society conducted a survey one year after the vote and found 80 percent of respondents supporting the law. This indicates that Ohioans are enjoying smoke-free places where they work and play.

Senate Bill 346 would virtually gut the Smoke Free Workplace Act leaving workers exposed to secondhand smoke. Smoking is a personal choice, but when done within the confines of a closed building, it becomes a very serious health concern.

We need to recognize the adverse health impact of allowing people to be exposed to second-hand smoke. An easy way to stop unnecessary suffering by workers and their families is to simply ask smokers to step outside.

Lung cancer deaths are on the decline, and there is no doubt that the adoption of smoke-free workplace laws and other tobacco control policies are major contributors to this process.

Let our senators, John Carey and Tom Niehaus, know how dangerous this bill is and why we need to work hard to keep Ohio smoke free by writing letters or sending e-mails.

Ohioans should take pride in having put in place one of the most comprehensive public-health measures in the country. One that allows every Ohioan to breathe clean air, both now and for future generations.

Maxine Lewis is the health educator at the Lawrence County Health Department.