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The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a letter from me today which I wrote in support of a good newspaper editorial which had been attacked subsequently by letter writer Hugh Eastwood of St. Louis County.
After my letter appeared I got a call from an 80-year-old gentleman who had read it and wanted to suggest further arguments to use in favor of smoke-free air. He said: “For decades we’ve had laws against burning leaves. What are cigarettes and cigars and pipe tobacco if not leaves?”
I said I agreed with his logic and it’s an argument I have used from time to time, but I’ve observed over many years that logic often doesn’t apply when it comes to the issue of secondhand smoke pollution, as was evident in the April 10, 2012, Post-Dispatch article featuring Jefferson County and its high smoking rate.
I mentioned in my letter the cover photo used in an R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company’s “Choice” newsletter in 1991 and I’ve appended it below.
The April 10 editorial “Rugged and addicted” was the most comprehensive and logical I have read for some time on smoking addiction and the related subject of secondhand smoke pollution.
A few days later, a letter writer claimed that many people ‘smoke for pleasure,” in direct denial of the proven fact that cigarettes are highly addictive. (A photo on the cover of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company’s “Choice” newsletter in 1991, showing shivering employees taking a smoking break in the snow, demonstrates this vividly.)
He also argued unconvincingly that secondhand smoke pollution was somehow unique when compared to other health and safety issues, such as food preparation or building codes, and should not be subject to regulation.
Smoke-free air laws are not a “failed war on drugs,” as he alleged.
And the attempt to dismiss Clayton’s smoke-free air law an attempt to “impress the middle class” is nonsense, given that similar comprehensive ordinances have been enacted in Ballwin and Brentwood, for example.
David Venable, the former Arnold city councilman, deserved plaudits and not abuse from residents for sponsoring that city’s first modern smoke-free air ordinance. Mr. Venable and similar elected officials are public health heroes.
Martin Pion • Ferguson
President, Missouri Group Against Smoking Pollution
Letters to the editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 12, 2012
I believe a “reasonable smoking policy” for workplaces is to make them smoke-free and offer employees help to quit smoking.
Perhaps people in Jefferson County just want to be left alone
The editorial “Rugged and addicted” (April 10) suggests that smoking is not about individual liberty and implies that the people of Jefferson County are deluded by “the tobacco industry’s long-discredited campaigns.”
Yet the health and safety examples cited are either long-standing examples of commercial or product regulation or liberty rights for the disabled, not novel government intrusions into individual free choices.
Many people smoke for pleasure despite knowing that it potentially can be bad for their health and wallet, and that it increasingly subjects them to stigma and snobbish disdain. Perhaps the people of Jefferson County find solace in Alexander Woollcott’s observation that “All the things I really like to do are either illegal, immoral or fattening.”
Having suffered more than most from the failed war on drugs, perhaps the good people of Jefferson County just want to be left alone. After all, in such yoga-and-latte locales as Clayton, one is no longer able to epater le bourgeois.
Hugh Eastwood • St. Louis County
Note: My wife tells me that epater le bourgeois means simply to “impress (or shock) the middle class.”