The letter from Kim Theriault [Smoking outdoors is worse than confining it indoors, Viewpoints, Nov. 16] about outdoor smoking is an example of the failure of rationality that too often results in a failure of decency to fellow members of our society.
The current controversy in Chicago and Oak Park about smoking bans in restaurants and bars has tended to be an intelligent debate about legitimate but competing concerns?#34;the right of businesses and their customers to choose their environment versus the duty of government to protect the health of citizens.
The result of previous smoking bans in workplaces has been to drive smokers out of doors. More will be sent packing by any restaurant/bar ban that may become law. Theriault and others seem to be preparing the ground for the next assault?#34;on the outdoor smoking that results from these bans.
Those who would ban outdoor smoking will find no back-up from the Smoke-Free Coalition and others who are legitimately concerned about health. The true agenda of Theriault and her ilk is clear?#34;hound the smoker out of society. And all because Theriault finds cigarette smoke unpleasant. Witness her claims?#34;she "reeked" of smoke after walking by smokers; she's been "attacked," "terrorized" and "asphyxiated" by outdoor smoking; she even had her view from the top of a mountain "blocked" by the smoke of a single cigarette! A rational argument against outdoor smoking would not require such exaggerations.
Those who are annoyed by outdoor cigarette smoke should consider the real outdoor threat to their health?#34;unregulated SUV exhaust and power and industrial plant emissions. SUVs are not subject to car emissions limitations. Given that SUVs account for 50 percent of all new car sales, and SUV exhaust contains 30 percent more carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons than cars, their real quarrel is with SUV manufacturers and owners.
A more fitting target for their venom might be the federal government that lowered SUV emission standards, the manufacturers who make no effort to reduce emissions, and the SUV owners who show so little concern for the health of their fellow human beings. Instead of snarling at smokers huddled in doorways, they could picket polluters that use loopholes in the law to avoid cleaning up their smokestack emissions.
Smokers make up about 22 percent of our population, down from more than 40 percent in the 1960s. As their numbers go down, the occasional whiffs of their smoke will lessen; but SUV and industrial emissions continue to rise. Let's go after the real killers.