From Martin Schwartz, Jefferson City:
I continue to read the letters from smokers urging the defeat of Jefferson City's proposed smoke-free ordinance. These arguments usually call the ordinance an assault on freedom.
What I remember from ninth-grade citizenship is that my freedom ends where your nose begins. Sure, it's a simplified definition, but in 1973, before Ritalin it was all we would sit still for. That simple definition is a perfect fit for this debate.
No one is trying to impinge on the smoker's rights; we're just trying to make sure those rights don't reach our noses.
Have you ever noticed how a cat will find the person in a room who hates cats and make that person's lap his own? Second-hand smoke has the same ability. It always finds the nonsmoker, curling insidiously about his nose like the animated emanations from PepÃ© Le Pew. I've had several meals ruined in the so-called "nonsmoking" sections of local restaurants by errant smoke that didn't know it was restricted by an intangible, hypothetical barrier one table away.
Since Columbia passed its no smoking ordinance, I spend a lot more time and money in its establishments. It's nice to be able to come home after a night on the town without having to hang my sport coat on the front porch to air out. It would be even nicer if I could invest some of those tax dollars here in Jefferson City. To be fair, I suppose one must consider how many Columbia smokers come to Jefferson City for the right to light up at dinner. Judging from the waiting time for a table on a Friday night in Columbia, I'd guess not too many.
I have to admit, I really get a kick out of the statement that non-smokers have the freedom to stay out of establishments where they run the risk of being assaulted by tobacco smoke. That's basically the same argument that used to be voiced in rape trials. It didn't wash then and it doesn't wash now.
Don't get me wrong, some of my dearest friends are smokers. The reason they remain friends is because of the consideration they show when it comes to lighting up.
In a perfect world, we wouldn't need laws to tell people where they could smoke because they would be sensitive to those around them. Sadly, the perfect world continues to elude us.
Jefferson City's smoke free initiative is not about inhibiting the freedom of those who smoke, it's about protecting the freedom of those who choose not to. I hope you'll join me in voting yes for a smoke-free Jefferson City on Nov. 2.
From Faye Pollman, Russellville:
I am opposed to Smoke Free Jefferson City. To me it is not just about health issues, but also freedom of choice.
I believe that a restaurant, bar or any other business has the right to decide whether or not to allow smoking. If you do not smoke and don't want to be around it, then you certainly do not have to patronize those places, but I don't think you should be allowed to force your opinion on others.
No, I am not a smoker, but I was for many years. Yes, I do realize that smoking is not good for you. Many years ago as a student nurse, I was required to attend a number of autopsies each year. I saw first-hand what smoke does to the human lung. My father died of lung cancer at age 70, after being a heavy smoker most of his life.
Recently in Jefferson City I saw a bumper sticker that said "I can still smoke in my car." If some people have their way, maybe not for long.
Many men and women have paid and are still paying a high price for our freedoms. Yet, one by one, we are allowing those freedoms to be taken away from us.
When you vote in November ask yourself if you are voting just for health or the freedom of choice.