I'm writing to respond to a letter to the editor, "Smoking ban an unnecessary solution to a non-problem," in the Jan. 12 issue of WEDNESDAY JOURNAL. First, I'd like to thank WEDNESDAY JOURNAL for your editorial support of a Smoke-free Oak Park. You reminded us that this issue is about health first and foremost. And you were able to see beyond the scare tactics employed by the few powerful opponents of smoke-free air who are claiming the sky will fall if Oak Park goes smoke-free. Thank you for your concern for the health of your readers and our families (and everyone else too)!
This Illinois Restaurant Association uses the same tired old scare tactics to distort the facts regarding the health and business advantages of a smoke-free Oak Park. Consider this from a Jan. 5 Reuters article: "Kids and teenagers exposed to even trace amounts of secondhand smoke score lower on tests of reading and reasoning, according to new research. Overall, up to 33 million children and teenagers in the U.S. may be exposed to enough secondhand tobacco smoke to affect their reading ability, making this a huge public health issue, study author Dr. Kimberly Yolton of the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio told Reuters Health. "That's an enormous amount of children," she said in an interview. "We really need to do a better job of making sure they have clean air to breathe, so they can reach their fullest potential."
How can anyone callously claim that this issue is a "solution looking for a problem"? People are worried about secondhand smoke. That's why almost 3,000 people have signed petitions urging trustees to protect the public by making Oak Park smoke-free. That's also why businesses have thrived in 11 U.S. states and in over 1,000 U.S. municipalities that are smoke-free. (By the way, Italy just announced that it's going smoke-free, joining an ever-expanding list of countries that already protect their citizens.) This is why so many parents are asking local businesses to support smoke-free Oak Park. And it is also the reason why making and marketing Oak Park as the Western Region's non-smoking section would draw customers from around the area, boosting Oak Park's business activity and ultimately reducing the village's reliance on our property taxes!
I very much agree with the letter's assertion that business people have rights. And I think people should be able to choose what they can and cannot do on their property and how to run their business. But, rights are not absolute. As medical science advances, society's perceptions of rights change. After all, the same business, property and individual rights arguments were made when hospitals and movie theaters became non-smoking, when airplanes became smoke-free and when non-smoking sections in restaurants were first mandated. The arguments were as wrong then as they are now. When the matter is as important as my family's health and the public's health, I think I'll err on the side of the Medical Association rather than the Restaurant Association!
The right choice is clear: Smoke-free air is good for people and good for business.
Mark E. Peysakhovich