Your editorial (June 5) decrying the influence of tobacco money on the recently approved AB 996 hit the nail on the head--but it only attacked the symptom, not the disease itself.
While some members no doubt had public policy reasons for supporting AB 996, the lack of any campaign finance restrictions in California continues to fuel the belief that politicians are bought and paid for by powerful special interests.
The fact that legislative supporters of AB 996 received $460,253 in campaign contributions from the tobacco industry over the past two years shouldn't surprise anyone. AB 996 is just one of dozens of "special interest" bills that generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions each year.
If we're going to restore public confidence that policy considerations, not money, are responsible for lawmakers' decisions, then we must enact a comprehensive campaign reform measure to severely restrict the amount of campaign contributions that are poured into the system.
There are over a dozen campaign finance reform bills pending in the Legislature, some by Democrats, some by Republicans, and a bipartisan effort that I'm co-authoring with Assemblyman Jan Goldsmith (R-Poway). Unfortunately, most, if not all, of them have been derailed by both parties.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN DEBRA BOWEN
D-Marina del Rey
Your editorial grossly understated the number of Americans who died from secondhand smoke. Three thousand Americans die from lung cancer induced by secondhand smoke each year. In addition, the total number of deaths from secondhand smoke is estimated to be 53,000, the bulk of which are secondary to heart attacks, heart disease and various cancers, including lung cancer.
In addition, tens of thousands of Americans are made ill every year from the effects of environmental tobacco smoke. Those most affected are people suffering from respiratory conditions who compose 10% of our population, including the elderly, infirm and children.
ALAN P. ZOVAR
Taskforce for Safe and Healthful Air
Now that cigarette smokers have become a small, politically insignificant voting bloc, the Los Angeles City Council has decided to expand government control over private behavior by banning smoking in area restaurants (June 3).
Is it just me, or does anybody else find it ironic that Los Angeles, the city with the nation's worst air quality, is trying to protect the health of its citizens by banning smoking inside privately owned eating establishments?
If the City Council is truly concerned with Angelenos' health, how about a ban on automobiles during peak ozone levels?
I see the issue of smoking in public places is heating up again, and once again I wonder at the anti-smoking demagogues who wish to insist that every business imaginable be run by their standards. My idea will probably be detested by said people, but it strikes a reasonable balance between the rights and desires of the various parties involved.
Restaurants and other such businesses should simply be required to prominently post outside their entrance the establishment's policy on smoking--whether that be totally nonsmoking, separate sections, or all areas open to smokers. That way, the business can be run as the proprietor likes: Those who wish to smoke can patronize businesses that want them as clients and those who wish to avoid smoke entirely can do likewise.
GEORGE D. MADISON
No wonder we are in mayhem. While the City Council of Los Angeles works diligently to ban smoking in public restaurants in an effort to protect the health of the public, we have some Sacramento clowns holding hands with the deadly tobacco lobbying crowd!
It would behoove each and every individual in California to find out how your Assembly person voted on this issue.
Friends, look how long it took the auto industry to make seat belts standard . . . decades . . . after they'd been proven to help save lives. Residents, remember how hard Mothers Against Drunk Driving had to work in order to have drunk drivers driven off the road. Now folks, it is going to take letters, phone calls, faxes, from every one of us to the Senate in Sacramento and to Gov. Pete Wilson to stop this tobacco-protectionist bill!
TRISH VAN DEVERE SCOTT
Question: How do you get a smoker and a nonsmoker to agree?
Answer: When they're Assemblyman Curtis Tucker (smoker) and Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (nonsmoker) just pay them, as the tobacco industry has done.