We hope magistrates were paying attention to last week’s release of a study on indoor air quality in Floyd County. If they were, they should realize that the time has come for them to follow the lead of the Prestonsburg city council and ban smoking in all workplaces in the county.
The study compared indoor air quality at six businesses in Prestonsburg, which passed a smoke-free workplace ordinance in 2009, and eight businesses outside of city limits, where the county’s lack of such an ordinance allows businesses to do as they please. What the study found is startling.
Indoor air at the county establishments was on average 13 times more polluted than in the city businesses, and three times dirtier than the safety standard for outdoor air. And the results could have been even worse; one of the the county businesses sampled is voluntarily smoke-free.
We all know that smoking is bad for the smoker. It often results in some of the most horrible ways to die — lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease. And while death is the inevitable result, it is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of suffering for the afflicted, who often have spent years, even decades, struggling to breathe.
We know and accept the dangers, as they pertain to the smoker. So why should any business have the right to subject nonsmokers to those very same poisonous fumes?
The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is just as bad for those who breathe it, as the smoke is for the smoker.
“There is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention writes in a fact sheet on the dangers. “Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children, including severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Some of the health conditions caused by secondhand smoke in adults include heart disease and lung cancer.”
In fact, secondhand smoke presents such a danger, we cannot understand why any business would allow smoking to take place within its establishments. One would think that business managers, who are keenly aware of the dangers such things as slippery or debris-strewn floors present (both to their customers and their bottom lines, when the resulting personal injury lawsuits hit), wouldn’t dream of inviting the public to enter a confined space filled with poisonous fumes.
In fact, secondhand smoke lawsuits are a growing legal field. According to a research paper written in 2004 by Edward L. Sweda, senior attorney for the Tobacco Control Resource Center, since the first secondhand smoke lawsuit was filed in 1976, there were over 420 more such lawsuits filed through 2003. And the lawsuits have grown both in number and success rate as time has passed.
But despite the dangers secondhand smoke poses to customers and employees, and despite the risk of inviting a lawsuit, many businesses in Floyd County simply have not yet seen the light. That is why it is so important for the fiscal court to take up the cause and enact a smoke-free workplace ordinance of its own.
Some argue that the government should not be meddling in the affairs of business, by mandating that workplaces forbid smoking. That’s hogwash.
Because businesses invite, even entice, the public to come inside their premises, they are required to maintain a safe and healthy environment. Secondhand smoke is unsafe and unhealthy, and that is why government is well within its purview to ban it in public venues.
Anyone who argues otherwise is, well, just blowing smoke.
— The Floyd County Times