As an Oak Park resident, I am very disappointed by the comments of the Downtown Oak Park Board of Directors and the president of the Illinois Restaurant Association in the Jan. 12 issue of WEDNESDAY JOURNAL. Both of these entities are strongly opposed to creating smoke-free workplaces and protecting the health of Oak Park employees, families and youth.
I do not understand their refusal to face the facts that secondhand smoke is not only harmful, but it kills 38,000 to 65,000 nonsmokers every year in the U.S. (Resource: American Cancer Society). Secondhand smoke is the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. But there is something we can do to prevent exposure to cigarette smoke and to help save lives. We can make all Oak Park workplaces smoke-free.
I commend the efforts of the Campaign for a Smoke-Free Oak Park for doing their part to make a positive and healthy contribution to the community. Everyone has the right to breathe smoke-free air in their workplace. It does not make sense to me that the Illinois Restaurant Association refuses to protect their employees from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke.
It seems to me that the IRA and Downtown Oak Park are only concerned with profit and financial gain. So I will speak to their concerns. I will go out to eat in Oak Park more if all restaurants go smoke-free. I would give Oak Park more business. I know that there are a lot of people like me, both smokers and non-smokers, who would do the same.
Families can bring their children to smoke-free environments to eat and shop. Children and adults with asthma can feel free to go to any restaurant they chose and not fear breathing in secondhand smoke. People can hold business lunches and events in a smoke-free environment. Oak Park and surrounding communities can finally have an oasis from the harmful, cancer-causing chemicals in cigarette smoke.
In a letter from Janet Pate in this same issue of WEDNESDAY JOURNAL ("Implications of smoking ban range beyond health"), she states "We are not asking for restaurants to stop serving alcohol or fried food?#34;both of which can be detrimental to one's well being as well!"
My response to this statement is that if I am in a restaurant and someone is drinking alcohol or eating fried food, it is not affecting my health or the health of everyone else in the establishment. Now, if someone was to be drinking alcohol or eating fried food and they also forced me, my little niece and our waitress to do the same, I would definitely say that is wrong and intolerable.
Smoking in workplaces is intolerable for that very same reason. Employees and customers are being forced to partake in something that is harmful to their health, which is to breathe in secondhand smoke. I use the word "forced" because employees often times do not have the option or privilege to quit and work someplace else. Some customers, such as babies and young children, do not have the option to leave a smoke-filled restaurant and choose to go somewhere else.
I believe that a smoke-free Oak Park will be good for families, good for health and good for business.
Jen De Lisle