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Smoking Issue One of Health, Not Liberty

July 31, 1993

The issue of banning tobacco use, especially smoking, illustrates the important need for the public to do its homework.

A recent letter (July 17) from one of Santa Ana's finest restaurateurs painfully points this out. The banning of smoking in Los Angeles restaurants or any public place is not a civil liberties issue, it is a public health issue.

Santa Ana school board officials are to be applauded for taking a courageous step to protect and promote the health of our children and our community by banning smoking on school grounds .

If residents were to do their homework, they would find that 435,000 people die each year from exercising their right to smoke. Sadly enough, that's not all they would find.

As many as 53,000 nonsmokers die each year from not having the right to breathe tobacco smoke-free air. With close to one half million Americans dying each year from tobacco use, who among us does not grieve the loss of a parent, friend, or loved one who has needlessly died from the use of tobacco?

Tobacco use is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in this country, more than AIDS, heroin and cocaine use, traffic deaths, and gang violence combined.

What about the rights, freedoms, and choices of nonsmokers? More than 80% of Orange County residents do not smoke. Not only does this issue affect the health of every citizen but the very health of our society as a whole. The social costs of tobacco use are staggering. Only individual denial and tobacco industry dollars has repressed the painful truth of just how destructive tobacco use has been to our country.

The same logic that equates civil liberty with an inalienable right to victimize nonsmokers, even children, can be used to defend a child's right to eat leaded paint.

JIM WALKER

Chairman

Santa Ana Human Relations Commission

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