The time for a smoke-free Summit is now |

The time for a smoke-free Summit is now

In regard to the current debate on smoking, some recent history might be worth reviewing. For several years now, all public places in California have been smoke-free. New York City and several communities in Colorado, including Pitkin County, are smoke-free.

On July 31, Florida will go smoke-free. Ireland is proposing to be smoke-free by the end of this year. At this very moment, the World Health Organization and delegates from 191 countries are gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, to work on a treaty to control tobacco and its effects on public health worldwide. Britain has just put a ban on all tobacco advertising.

It doesn’t take a genius to see a trend developing, nor does it take a great deal of imagination to foresee the real possibility of a future smoke-free America.

Yet, there are those who will say this is government out of control – government intruding on our privacy and robbing us of our freedom. Where will it all end, they ask.

To answer that, let’s review the facts. We live in a world that is forever changing. We have the responsibility to provide equal access to all Americans and at the same time, protect their health and welfare.

Smoking in bars and restaurants is a tradition that began many years before we knew how harmful it is to our health. We are losing Americans every year as a direct result of exposure to tobacco, smoking and second-hand smoke. This puts a huge burden on our health care system and can be devastating to the families and loved ones.

This is not a fad that wishful thinking or denial can make disappear. It is up to us to be proactive toward protecting our health, our workers and all citizens in public places.

Government’s role is to provide equal access to all public places for everyone without undue risk to their health.

To me, one of the finest examples of good government in action was the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s the law that all of those confined to a wheelchair be provided access to all public buildings, parks, housing, etc. It is a regulation that makes sense and makes all of us proud to be Americans. It does not take any of our freedoms away. It is not inconvenient to park a little farther away from the entry of City Market or Safeway. As able-bodied citizens, we graciously walk a little farther to accommodate those who cannot walk at all. It’s a win-win situation.

Most smokers are intelligent and considerate. A smoker who stops to think about it would not want to deny access to a person with asthma, for example, or respiratory illness from entering a restaurant by first having to walk through a smoke-filled bar.

No thoughtful smoker would want to deny our youth from visiting a convenient local establishment to socialize and enjoy a favorite band without putting their health at risk.

Considerate smokers would not want to deny a single mother, for example, the convenience, if desired, of working at a neighborhood bar.

I believe that all able-bodied smokers would want to do the gentlemanly and womanly thing. They would walk outside whenever they choose to have their smoke and then return. It would provide free choice for everyone with minimal inconvenience to anyone. That is what good government is all about. Establishing minimal regulations to protect the health and welfare of all.

The question before us, then, is not should Summit County go smoke-free, but when?

Statistics prove that communities that go smoke-free also have a dramatic increase in smoking cessation rates. With all this information, the only appropriate time for Summit County to consider going smoke-free is now.

If we truly care about the young people in our community, if we understand our responsibility to them and our leaders’ responsibility to all of us, then let’s work together to enact sensible laws.

Let’s make Summit County a healthier place for all of us. Let’s show our young people that we stood up for them and at the same time, illustrate for them the positive power of government leaders working hand in hand with concerned citizens.

Anyone who is interested may attend an open forum called Smoke-Free Summit, 7-9 p.m. Thursday at the Summit County Community and Senior Center at the County Commons Frisco.

This is an excellent opportunity for the students of Summit County to make a difference in the future of their community. All ages are encouraged to attend. Refreshments will be served. Please come and participate.

Robert Warren Israelsky, who lives just north of Silverthorne, is a member of the new Smoke-Free Summit task force. He is the father of a middle school daughter.

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