New Bedford, MA:
Smoking ban proposal gets cloudy reaction
By STEVE LeBLANC, Associated Press writer
New Bedford residents gave mixed reactions to Thursday's sweeping Senate legislation barring cigarettes statewide from all workplaces and public buildings, including restaurants and bars.
The measure, which must be approved by the House and signed by Gov. Mitt Romney before becoming law, would make Massachusetts one of a handful of states in the country, along with California, New York and Delaware, to ban smoking statewide.
Supporters said the ban, which was approved on a voice vote during the Senate budget debate late Thursday night, will save lives, prevent illnesses due to secondhand smoke and put the state on the cutting edge of health initiatives.
New Bedford resident Walter Adams III, 23, agrees with the measure. "In these bars you walk into a cloud," he said. "I don't want to be inhaling everybody else's smoke."
"A person's right to breathe clean air trumps the right of a person to smoke," said Sen. Steven Tolman, D-Boston. "This is a question of fundamental fairness."
The amendment would bar smoking in any private or public workplace and any place of public accommodation, including restaurants, bars, malls and hotels. The amendment carries a $100 fine for a first offense. The fine would be levied against the owner of the restaurant, bar or hotel.
Tom Kern, owner of Bar 908 on Purchase Street in New Bedford, saw it coming. "Twenty-five years ago, three-quarters of this city smoked, now less then one-third smokes," he said. "Majority rules."
Backers of the statewide ban said it's unfair that employees and patrons of bars and restaurants in some Massachusetts communities are protected from secondhand smoke while others are placed in harm's way.
"Every single day people die or suffer from the effects of secondhand smoke," said Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny, D-New Bedford.
Statewide, more than 75 communities have smoking restrictions.
But critics said a statewide ban goes too far and would hurt small-business owners.
"If you own a bar or you own a restaurant and you want to cater to smokers ... you should have the ability to do that in Massachusetts," said Sen. Richard Tisei, R-Wakefield.
Karen Gomes, a former New Bedford bartender, said local bar and restaurant owners will be put at an unfair disadvantage. Patrons may drive a few more miles across the border to be able to smoke, she said.
"It won't be good for New Bedford," she said. "People will just go to Rhode Island."
Other New Bedford residents claim the traffic of smokers loitering outside bars could cause some problems. "At the Main Event or Mr. Downtown, it could get ugly," said Tabriez Miles, 20, a smoker. "The whole street's going to look like a damn parade."
Anti-smoking advocates, demoralized by efforts to strip funding from anti-smoking programs, claimed a victory in the Senate vote.
Other New England states, including Maine and Vermont, are weighing similar bans, advocates said.
The Connecticut restaurant ban takes effect Oct. 1 and the prohibition in bars and taverns begins April 1, 2004.
"We are just part of a movement that is sweeping the nation," said Lori Fresina of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "Hopefully the Senate has jump-started this and the House and governor will follow."
Some opponents said the ban is an infringement on personal liberty and could eventually lead to the banning of other legal, but potentially harmful, substances.
"It's only a matter of time before someone files a bill to ban butter," Tisei said. "Sooner or later people have to make decisions on their own."
Easing of smoke ban gets mixed reaction
By Aaron Nicodemus and Jack Spillane, Standard-Times staff writers.
NEW BEDFORD -- The Board of Health's surprise change of heart on restaurant smoking has gladdened some restaurant owners but left the board's chairwoman fuming about a triumph of politics over public health.
"Politics and public health don't mix. That's what happened here," Board of Health Chairwoman Dr. Patricia Andrade said yesterday.
Monday night the board voted, over the objection of Dr. Andrade, to add two amendments that softened the city's regulations banning smoking in restaurants that serve minors.
The first amendment -- originally suggested by Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz Jr. last summer -- allows restaurants to build separate smoking sections with floor-to-ceiling divisions and proper ventilation.
The second amendment, which the board had previously indicated it wished to make, allows any restaurant, not just those with all-alcohol licenses, to declare itself an adults-only establishment -- where smoking is permitted.
Roberto Calderon, owner of Cafe Portugal on Acushet Avenue, was enthusiastic about the changes.
"With no smoking, I lose a lot of customers," he said. "I want to build a smoking room. I can put in nice vents. With the ban, I lost a lot of business. This is good news for my business."
The amendments came only two weeks after the City Council declared war on the health board's anti-smoking intransigence by approving a smoking ordinance of its own that would require restaurant owners to observe only the state's more forgiving regulations.
No one was saying yesterday that the health board had approved its amendments to torpedo the council's ordinance. But City Solicitor George Leontire was quick to say Monday that the health board action rendered the council ordinance moot.
Councilor-at-large Brian Gomes, one of the ordinance's sponsors, wondered about the health board's motivation. "The question has to be asked, Why have they had a sudden change of heart on this issue?" he said.
Mr. Gomes said he still saw a need for the council's ordinance. He said that many restaurants might not be able to afford floor-to-ceiling partitions that the amendment that was passed Monday requires.
It also appeared yesterday that the council's ordinance no longer has enough votes to override an expected veto from the mayor.
Ward 5 City Councilor Jane Gonsalves said she changed her mind and will not support the ordinance because of the "feedback" she has received in favor of the smoking ban.
Ms. Gonsalves said that she was surprised the health board backed off the ban.
Dr. Andrade said the board did so in the interest of politics and economics, not public health.
"There is a clear-cut political realm, a clear-cut economic realm and a clear-cut public health realm," she said. "It might be good for some of those realms, but for public health, no."
Pharmacist Victor Rebello, one of the health board members who voted for the amendments, denied he had bowed to political pressure. He was persuaded, he said, by seeing similar smoking regulations in place in Framingham.
"My conscience kept saying to me, Let's do it," Mr. Rebello said. "I was willing to bend a little bit."
Mr. Rebello agreed that the amendments were not in the best interest of the public health, but were made in the spirit of compromise.
Nurse Barbara Silva, the other board member who voted for the amendments, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Philip Beauregard, an attorney for several restaurant owners and others interested in overturning the Board of Health's anti-smoking regulations, said the board has now proved it acts on political, not health, considerations.
"The Board of Health may have stepped in it," he said. "They've been saying that they can only be concerned with the health of the community but they're obviously not doing this for health reasons."
He said the turnaround could make the board's regulations more vulnerable in court.
Mr. Beauregard said the law favors the restaurant owners, even if the council does not pass its ordinance.
The city charter, he said, gives all the power for enacting health regulations to the City Council, not the Board of Health.
The council must give the board specific authority to pass an all-encompassing regulation such as a smoking ban in restaurants, he said. The board's power is designed to address imminent, not long-term situations, he said.
Meanwhile, Frank Araujo of the O Chico Restaurant, owned by his wife, Maria, said they welcomed any regulatory changes that would enable him to reintroduce smoking into his restaurant.
"I need smoking over here," said Mr. Araujo. He said his business has lost $1,000 a week since the no-smoking law went into effect.
"No children come here," he said. "Workers and landscapers come here, they want to smoke. You ask if I want smoking or not smoking, I want smoking."
Foes of smoking ban may get unlikely ally
By Patricia O'Connor,
Standard-Times staff writer
MATTAPOISETT -- The
last thing Stephen Hanna wants to become is a pro-tobacco poster boy.
But Mr. Hanna, a former smoker who is paying a high price for his habit, wouldn't
mind being known as a champion of free enterprise.
So he's running for a
seat on the town's Board of Health in hopes that he can defeat any attempt
to impose smoking regulations on the town's restaurants.
He'll square off
against incumbent Russell Bailey for the three-year term during the April
4 town election.
"I'm not going to
argue about smoking," the Tobey Lane resident said. "I've got lung disease
and emphysema but I am also a college graduate and I understand the
principles of liberty."
Simply stated, Mr.
Hanna believes the decision whether to restrict or ban smoking in the
town's restaurants should be left up to the businesses owners.
Forcing them to comply
with regulations that would require them to prohibit people from lighting
up or force them to make potentially costly renovations to partition off a
separate section for smokers simply isn't fair, he said.
"The issue is not the
cigarettes," Mr. Hanna said. "The issue is the rights of the property
the Board of Health is weighing whether they should institute some sort of
Although they're still
some ways away from crafting any sort of firm proposal, they've met with
the town's restaurant owners to get their input and listen to their
concerns and they've solicited feedback from the public. It'll likely be
early May before they revisit the issue again.
Restaurant owners have
expressed fears that anti-smoking regulations could harm their business.
So far, sentiment of the townspeople who have answered that request for
input is running heavily in favor of enacting smoking regulations.
who owns an inspection and hardware sales business, is certain there are a
number of people in town who'd like to see some sort of smoking
restrictions in place.
But he said since he
announced his candidacy, he's heard from a lot of people who, like him,
believe the debate is not so much about public health as it is about free
"Second hand smoke is bad and I'll be the first to say that but why can't
he run his business as he wants to," he said. "If a business owner says I
don't want smoking in my business I'm 100 percent behind him." Mr. Hanna
or not that decision is a wise one will be determined by the public when
they decide if they want to patronize a particular eatery.
Mr. Hanna, who has
lived in town for close to 20 years has run for a seat on the School
Committee three times. During his last attempt to earn a seat on that
panel, he fell nine votes shy.
"I have no ax to
grind," Mr. Hanna said of his decision to challenge the incumbent. "The
only reason I'm opposing Mr. Bailey is he's up (for reelection) this year.
It's an issue that struck a nerve and I said it's time somebody stood up
and was counted."
election is Tuesday, April 4. Polls will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at
Old Hammondtown School.
My Property Is My Own Business
DARTMOUTH. This is in response to the letter and survey received by residents of Padanaram from the chairman of the Dartmouth Historic District. I will begin by saying that I resent the fact that the chairman is requesting my name, address, phone number and opinion without providing his or hers.
I am opposed to and insulted by the idea of a historic district regulating privately owned property in Padanaram. The only necessary government regulations pertaining to privately owned homes and buildings already exist in the form building codes that ensure safe building practices.
The Historic District Commission claims that their mission is to "preserve the beauty of Padanaram for the benefit of all Dartmouth residents." Allow me to remind them that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone's view is different.
I have spoken with many village residents regarding this proposed historic district and noticed a common theme among the very few who think this might be a good idea. "For the benefit of all" appears to extend only so far as "I have already made the changes I wanted to my property, so it does not affect me." Of course, these people believe that their changes are perfectly acceptable. I wonder what a historic commission would rule.
I suggest that anyone who thinks that this is a good idea take a close look at the proposed bylaws. The purpose of these bylaws is to force property owners to comply with the wishes of a few appointed officials, not to provide cobblestone streets in the village.
I attended the Feb. 7 meeting of the Dartmouth Historical Commission and was outraged to hear one of the appointed board members suggest taking the privately owned "Doc Smith" property by eminent domain. Who do you people think you are? If this is so important to you, put your own money on the table and buy it.
I was also enlightened to the fact that this commission presently has a budget of $600 per year. The consensus of the meeting was that they plan to ask the Finance Committee to increase their budget to at least $5,000 per year and, in addition, that they wish to hire a part-time, permanent employee. The fact that the members of this commission and study committee are attempting to use public funds to dictate personal taste and further personal agendas is an ugly idea. It appears that anyone with a "good cause" is immediately rewarded with a committee and public funds to pursue their personal agenda. Witnessing the birth of a new bureaucracy is a disgusting experience that is all too common in America today.
According to the proposed bylaws, a property owner who does not comply with the appointed powers that be is in violation of the historic district provisions and is subject to Superior Court rulings and a fine of not less that $10 or more than $500 for each day that the violation continues. The bylaws vaguely refer to some consideration for "hardship," determined, of course, by the appointed board of seven members, only one of who shall actually be a resident of the determined historic district.
The historic district bylaws will require that public hearings be held to discuss any property owner's proposed changes. An individual should not be subjected to a public discussion of what he desires to do with his own private property. If a property owner chooses vinyl siding for his house, whether for ease of maintenance or due to financial reasons, is nobody's business but his own. I don't know many people who relish the idea of airing their private business at a public hearing.
By the way, I wonder if a representative of the local cable company is a member of the commission. Television antennas and cables are not subject to the bylaws, but satellite dishes are.
If the town of Dartmouth wishes to preserve town-owned historic properties in this manner, get approval for the expenditure, by vote, from the taxpayers. Otherwise I ask the selectmen to immediately dissolve the Dartmouth Historical Study Committee.
Laura Hirschmann lives in Dartmouth.
Contempt for ban, contempt for people.
Response: CONTEMPT FOR PROHIBITION
In Mattapoisett, residents weigh in
By Patricia O'Connor
MATTAPOISETT -- Laura Lanagan gets about a call a day from would-be diners who want to know if they can still smoke at Cathay Temple.
The answer is yes, for now.
Board of Health members are still seeking public input on whether they should draw up regulations regarding smoking in the town's restaurants.
To date, a few dozen townspeople have called the office, written letters and sent e-mails expressing their opinion. So far, the majority of those who have contacted the board want to see some sort of regulations.
The board already had received input from a number of people who don't want any restrictions on smoking in the town's eateries.
Restaurateurs offered the health board their opinions during an informal meeting on the matter about a month ago. During that session they expressed concerns that restrictions on smoking or an outright ban on lighting up could harm their business.
It'll likely be at least several more weeks, if not months, before the Board of Health makes any move to impose regulations, and they've assured the town's restaurant owners that they'll be back in touch before then to keep them apprised of what they're considering.
In the meantime, people like Ms. Lanagan, who manages Cathay Temple on Route 6, are anxiously fielding questions from customers and trying to figure out how they'll cope, should the board opt to impose rules limiting smoking.
Marc Goddu, owner of the Mattapoisett Inn, applauds the Board of Health for the way they're handling the matter and praises the members' attempts to get input from everyone involved. He said he also hopes that the issue can be addressed in a manner that's acceptable to the businesses owners and their patrons -- be they smokers or nonsmokers.
But he's concerned that moves to restrict or ban smoking could harm his business.
As it is now, smoking is allowed in the inn's lounge. It's also allowed in the dining rooms on a very limited basis.
Mr. Goddu fears that if he must put up partitions to segregate smoking from nonsmoking areas, it could be costly.
"I have a 200-year-old building. For me to start moving things around would be very expensive," he said.
He's particularly concerned about his wedding businesses, which thrives during summer weekends. It would be virtually impossible to accommodate reception crowds if he were made to divide up the inn's interior space.
If the board were to seek a total ban on smoking, he'd likely lose some customers.
"There have been some customers who have definitely indicated to me that if it's all nonsmoking, they'll find other places to go," he said.
Ultimately, he doesn't believe the Board of Health should be the group to decide whether people are allowed to smoke in restaurants, he said.
"I don't think the Board of Health should be able to dictate whether people can smoke or not smoke, when it's legal to smoke," he said.
Ms. Lanagan of Cathay Temple questions whether, in a town the size of Mattapoisett, with relatively few restaurants, regulations are needed.
At Cathay Temple, there are separate smoking and nonsmoking areas. Those sections aren't partitioned off, but an exhaust fan and two large "Smoke Eaters" help clear the air.
She said restrictions on smoking, particularly a total ban, would be detrimental to the business, as many who patronize the restaurant, especially the bar customers, enjoy having a cigarette with a drink.
Whatever the board decides, it probably wont have an impact at the Mattapoisett Chowder House, which went smoke-free last fall.
Owner Mark Koran said banning smoking in his establishment hasn't spawned any drop in business, just a lot of thanks from customers.
"I've had so many people come in and pat me on the back and say it's a good thing," Mr. Koran said. "There's been no negative impact."
He applauds the Board of Health's effort to develop some type of smoking regulation.
"I think as far as restaurants go, they should be smoke-free, period. If the Board of Health intends to make it their business, they should."
Smoke-busting savior? Device might stave off smoking ban in Wareham
By Mary Jo Curtis
WAREHAM -- As neighboring communities battle over restaurant smoking bans, Wareham health officials are hoping to find a compromise that will protect the physical health of the public and the fiscal health of local businesses.
Health agent Carl Wakefield said the Board of Health will meet Feb. 15 with a group of restaurant owners to hear their plan for testing the effectiveness of a new smoke-busting system.
The board has voted to ban smoking in local eateries and function halls -- but officials have repeatedly postponed implementing the ban, as restaurateurs have lobbied to allow them to have designated smoking areas and use air purification systems.
Board members have said they are open to compromise, but they are unconvinced that the proposed technology will satisfy their desire to protect the health of the public and restaurant employees.
Last month, Cranberry Cottage owner Jim Giberti said the board was persuaded to take a closer look at a new ventilation system.
"The restaurant people have hired a company to test a device that will be put into a restaurant that's yet to be chosen," Mr. Wakefield said this week. "They're going to present what they'll be doing, and the board will name an engineer to do the testing. Then we'll know what direction to go in.
"We understand their concerns, and we're trying to work with the restaurant people so we won't have the situation they have in New Bedford," Mr. Wakefield said. "But we also have to address the public and those who are complaining that we haven't implemented this. The financial issues aren't within our authority; public health is our bottom line."
The health board's ban was initially set to take effect in January 1999, but members delayed enforcement until last July 1, to give business owners a chance to come up with an acceptable compromise -- one that would allow for some smoking in restaurants with the installation of barriers and air purifying devices.
Responding to renewed protests from the owners when no plan was found, however, officials postponed the ban again to Jan. 2 and agreed to continue meeting with the group to examine options. In December, board members agreed to another, indefinite delay.
In the meantime, bans went into effect in New Bedford, Dartmouth and Fairhaven on Jan. 3.
Cheri Lindsey, owner of Lindsey's Seafood Restaurant on Cranberry Highway, said several colleagues from those towns have told her the ban "is killing them."
Ms. Lindsey said she is benefiting from their loss of business.
"I'm getting customers from that area," she said. "I had a woman here (yesterday) from South Dartmouth who said she plans to come back.
"On a cold February afternoon at 3 p.m., every smoking table was full here," she said.
Several local restaurant owners have said they wouldn't oppose the smoking ban if it were implemented across the state, rather than only in certain communities, forcing restaurant owners to compete with neighboring communities without bans.
Staff photo by David Arruda Jr.
Cheri Lindsey, owner of Lindsey's Seafood Restaurant in Buzzards Bay, spent more than $20,000 on new ventilation.
Smoking ban sets a poor precedent for freedoms
FAIRHAVEN: The article by Frederick Satkin ("Health police start down slippery slope," Jan. 26) bears repeating for those who may have missed it. While the rest of us were arguing about the smoking ban, Mr. Satkin researched the potential danger of several products commonly used in restaurants, homes, offices, hospitals, etc., and his findings, which are well documented, makes second-hand smoke a non-issue.
We are all aware of the pollution in the air we breathe, the contamination of our drinking water and the soil we walk on day in and day out, and it gets worse all the time. Add to that the growing concern about industrial products once thought safe, and suddenly we realize that there are no safety zones.
Keep in mind that the cause of cancer is still unknown, and until that key is found, the banning of just one irritant among the many makes no sense. It is vital to consider the consequences before making any decision, and a decision that will adversely affect many people has to be weighed very carefully.
At what point does a potential health hazard become an epidemic ?
A Board of Health is basically a watchdog group whose function is to guard the public's overall safety by maintaining an acceptable level of cleanliness and food quality in places where the public trades, and to intercede where extreme unsanitary conditions threaten minors, elderly, handicapped -- or even the community. The Board is not empowered to make laws or issue mandates at will. Like the rest of us common folks, they must take their case to court, or in some instances put it to a referendum vote. Only in times when contagious conditions get out of hand can any Board of Health take extreme and immediate measures to stop the spread.
If this mandate to ban smoking in restaurants by demanding blind obedience to forced compliance without recourse is allowed to stand, it will set a precedent, granting the New Bedford Board of Health blanket authority to ban anything that in their opinion may be harmful to one's health, and the people will be unable to do a thing about it.
That is one very costly premium to pay just to insure that nonsmokers will be able to dine out in comfort, but it doesn't stop there. Eventually even non-smoking advocates will find their freedom of choice in jeopardy at the mercy of a three-member group not necessarily qualified to make such judgments.
Remember, today one happens to be a doctor (of what, I haven't read) and two others whose qualifications are equally obscure. When the elected official who makes these appointments changes, the Board of Health could consist of a plumber, an accountant and the mayor's second cousin once removed. If they all have common sense, they will be a good choice; if they are paranoiacs caught up in promoting what happens to be the politically correct target of the time, it can cause chaos.
Mr. Satkin's article should be required reading. There can be no question he has done his homework well, and while he may still prefer to dine in a smoke-free area, he recognizes that eateries cannot be made risk-free, and that exposure to a variety of odorless, smokeless contaminants emitted by products and materials in everyday use are more dangerous by far than secondhand smoke.
If they cannot all be eliminated, why ban the only one among the many that can be avoided ? Why shove another knife in the backs of a single segment of society who have already been accused of causing all the ills of mankind, and arbitrarily taxed by state and local government in such proportioned rates to subsidize Medicare, and fund anti-smoking commercials that insult the intelligence? Smokers are just the first on a long list of "undesirables" who will be eliminated from that Utopian world the "Do-Gooder" party is promoting.
We are all responsible, one to the other, for the preservation of our freedom whether or not we agree with the choices made. When our elected or appointed officials take it upon themselves to decide what is in our best interests by rewriting the rules in the middle of the game, it is time to let them know it is unacceptable.
Mr. Satkin points up enough evidence of government incompetence to assure us we are better off trusting ourselves while they get back to doing the job they are elected to do. Democracy is the power of the people. Get the message across before any more damage is done by the domino effect to those who do not deserve to be charged with guilt by association.
Rita Hunt lives in Fairhaven.
Smoking ban to be revisited
By John Doherty
NEW BEDFORD -- It's possible some relief will be granted tonight to restaurant owners who say they're being pinched by the month-old city smoking regulations.
The Board of Health will meet tonight at 6:30 at the Hathaway School and consider loosening the near-total ban on smoking.
Board of Health Chairwoman Dr. Patricia Andrade told angry restaurant owners at a Jan. 18 meeting about the new policies that there were some glitches in the regulations.
As it stands now, restaurants and bars with full liquor licenses may choose to be completely nonsmoking or to prohibit any patrons under 18.
One complaint from the business community is that some small establishments without a full license -- or without any license at all -- were losing business because they had no choice but to ban smoking outright.
Dr. Andrade said not extending that choice to all restaurants was an "oversight" that would be considered at tonight's meeting.
Since new smoking regulations took effect Jan. 3 in the city, Dartmouth and Fairhaven, debate over their effect has raged in the city.
Business owners opposed to the ban have formed SouthCoast Citizens for Freedom and have leaned heavily on the mayor and the City Council to suspend or repeal it.
The members of the appointed Board of Health, however, have stuck to their guns: second-hand smoke is a health issue, they say, not a political issue or economic one.
And while some restaurant owners have applauded the tough regulations, others have vowed to fight it: through open defiance or perhaps even a tax strike.
The smoking issue has come to almost every area community.
Wareham is currently considering some form of stricter air-quality regulations and at a public meeting two weeks ago, the Fall River Board of Health began soliciting input about possible regulations there.
Fall River would likely not adopt strict regulations unless they could be done in conjunction with surrounding towns, as New Bedford did.
It's all disinformation
BOSTON: To appreciate fully the context of the ongoing debate in New Bedford over the Board of Health's smoking regulations, one must look back more than 20 years. In 1978, a Roper Organization poll commissioned for the Tobacco Institute described nonsmokers' rights as the "greatest threat to the viability of the tobacco industry that has yet occurred" in the United States.
Ever since, Big Tobacco has engaged in an expensive and multi-pronged campaign to prevent places open to the public from becoming smoke-free, whether by legislation or by voluntarily adopted policies. Internal tobacco industry memos were cited in an April 1998 Wall Street Journal article that began: "Determined to keep reports about secondhand smoke from mushrooming,
the tobacco industry mobilized a counterattack in the mid-1980s to systematically discredit any researcher claiming perils from passive smoke."
In a Feb. 25, 1985 letter, Anthony Colucci, who was a top researcher at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., wrote to H.E. Osmon, a director of public affairs at Reynolds: "We anticipate that if (then-EPA scientist James) Repace runs true to form, there will be a good deal of media copy written about their (Repace's and naval researcher Alfred Lowrey's) analyses and thus we should begin eroding confidence in this work as soon as possible."
Even before Colucci's letter, the tobacco industry had long sought to discredit those who report about the hazards of secondhand smoke. In a 1981 Philip Morris document, an executive suggests funding studies "with the intent to publish data which refutes specific assertions by the anti-smoking forces." An official for BAT Industries (the parent company of Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co. in the United States) in 1993 listed as a strategy:
"Conduct research to anticipate and refute claims about the health effects of passive smoking."
Contrast these instructions with what a company truly devoted to honest scientific research would say: "Conduct research to learn the truth about the health effects of passive smoking." Instead, Big Tobacco manufactured junk science for the purpose of selling as many cigarettes as possible.
When the tobacco industry was not manufacturing junk science, it was buying it. In August 1998, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the tobacco industry paid 13 scientists a total of $156,000 to write letters to influential publications criticizing the 1993 EPA report on secondhand smoke. This pollution of the scientific literature had the desired effect of misleading the public by exaggerating the extent of genuine scientific controversy over the health effects of secondhand smoke. As Julia Carol of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights put it, referring to the 13 who accepted tobacco money for this purpose: "They're not scientists, they're prostitutes."
Another recently released document details recommendations from tobacco giant Philip Morns' public relations firm, Burson-Marstellar. The 1994 document lists a key goal as "help defeat smoking bans and promote accommodation as the reasonable alternative." To achieve that goal, Philip Morris is urged to "position smoking ban proponents as extremist and accommodation as part of the mainstream" and to "demonstrate detrimental impact of smoking bans on business owners."
Sure enough, Philip Morris followed that advice here in Massachusetts.
Last May, the Boston Globe reported that Philip Morris orchestrated a 1996 report (which claimed that smoking bans hurt the restaurant business) that the Massachusetts Restaurant Association released without mentioning the company's behind-the-scenes role. Philip Morris also "edited statements used by the association to answer press inquires; and it helped coordinate the association's efforts to gather intelligence on the state's tobacco control program."
So, the next time you hear someone claim that secondhand smoke has not been proven harmful to nonsmokers or that smoking bans are bad for restaurant owners, don't forget Big Tobacco's massive and ongoing disinformation campaign.
Edward L. Sweda Jr. is senior attorney for the Tobacco Control Resource Center, based at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston.
Smoke ban issue takes strange turn
By Dick White
We just crossed over into another dimension, and it was all so very surreal Monday night. All that was missing was Rod Serling, standing in the back of the auditorium. Holding a cigarette.
Business owners and concerned citizens had come with hope to the latest-and-greatest New Bedford Board of Health meeting at the Hathaway School.
The hope was that Mayor Kalisz's sane and reasonable amendments to the Board of Health's severe restrictions on smoking would be implemented. Or as Steve Bigos, owner of Steve's Brooklawn Place, put it: "The way I see it, I have another month. Something's got to change and I'm hoping tonight is the night. I've definitely lost 50 percent of my business, according to last year's numbers."
But tonight was the night for a wondrous journey, not of things and ideas, but into a land of imagination, where simple solutions are turned into complex problems.
Where businessmen and women were left hopelessly befuddled in a Twilight Zone of surreal bureaucratic entanglement of Your City at Work.
The Board of Health invited a self-proclaimed "second-hand smoke expert" named James Repace, hired by the state's Tobacco Control agency, to put on a show for us last night.
And what a show it was. There were rapidly shuffled charts showing the estimates of 60,000 deaths a year from passive smoke -- twice the number from automobile accidents.
There were charts suggesting evidence of new diseases, all increased by exposure to second-hand smoke, which affects blue- and white-collar workers. He even coined a new phrase, "pink-collar worker," for hospitality workers. It seems they are affected, too.
He even produced charts showing the coatiniline level in the urine of average workers in Quebec. He delineated, in pain-staking detail, the cubic feet per minute, per occupant, of fresh oxygen needed to ensure acceptable levels within a restaurant. He would triple the rate.
That's when someone quipped, "They'd better hold onto their napkins."
He had a chart showing how going nonsmoking actually protects restaurant owners from litigation by workers. And he concluded preaching to the Board of Health choir by saying, "There is no need to stop halfway. This is a golden opportunity to go nonsmoking. The vast majority of nonsmokers will throw roses at your feet if you do this. The same arguments have been tried everywhere and they're all bankrupt.
"The only standard that is acceptable is smoke-free air."
The only standard that is acceptable.
He even stated -- and the Board of Health agreed with him -- that New Bedford restaurants should institute a separate room where "smokers may go to smoke, but workers (in the restaurant) are not forced to work."
Thus, workers have now been thrown into the equation, or as Dr. Patricia Andrade theorized: "Waitresses will still get their tips, but customers will have to take their food and drinks into the nonsmoking room."
To that, the business people seated in the auditorium groaned in perfect unison. Someone mumbled something about paper plates.
And so, it has come to this.
Nonsmoking rooms, negatively pressurized with a spring door, if you can afford to build them, without any service, in order to protect the workers, because "those are real people and real deaths."
That's New Bedford's answer to the mayor's proposal.
That's the Board of Health's answer to compromise.
And in the Gospel According to Repace: "There's not going to be an impact on economies. I'd urge you to adopt the mayor's proposal."
But the only problem, dear diner, is that "the mayor's proposal" has now turned into something completely opposite of its original intent.
It has become a full-fledged, dyed-in-the-wool, red-taped bureaucratic monster.
Or, as City Councilor David Alves put it, "It's getting more discriminatory at every turn."
That's because it is meant to be.
It is meant to discourage all reason and compromise.
It is a veiled threat.
And it is one the Board will continue to take under advisement in a neverending string of meetings as the life-blood slowly saps from God-knows-how-many businesses in our oh-so thriving city.
Do-do dee-dee. Do-do dee-dee ...
Health board, discusses tightening, not loosening, smoking regulations
By John Doherty
NEW BEDFORD -- Restaurant owners who expected a loosening of the city's smoking regulations got a shock last night.
The Board of Health did not, as some expected, give establishments without full-liquor licenses the choice of going adults-only so as to continue to allow smoking.
In fact, they briefly considered tightening the regulations on those few all-liquor establishments that allow smoking.
After hearing testimony from James Repace, a former EPA official from Maryland who now consults as a "second-hand smoke expert," the board discussed adopting an amendment to the smoking regulations they passed in August 1999 and implemented Jan. 3.
That amendment was recommended by Mayor Frederick M. Kalisz, who had suggested smoking areas in city establishments be allowed so long as they were set apart from nonsmoking areas by floor-to-ceiling dividers and had adequate ventilation.
The mayor had submitted the proposal to the board after meeting with angry business owners who claimed they were losing business by not having any choice but to ban smoking.
It was widely understood the mayor's idea was meant not to further restrict tobacco use but to give all city restaurants the opportunity to allow some smoking.
The mayor could not be reached for comment at home last night.
Mr. Repace heartily endorsed the mayor's idea, but interpreted it to be a further restriction on all-liquor establishments that had declared themselves adults-only.
Mr. Repace read the amendment to mean all city smoking areas -- allowed only in adults-only businesses -- would not only have to be entirely separate, but would also be off-limits to the restaurant or bar's waitstaff.
He applauded the board for considering anothe step to a natural end: a complete ban on all smoking in public establishments.
"You've taken the first step," Mr. Repace told the 30-member board. "The mayor's plan advances that to the next level."
The members of the board appeared to agree with Mr. Repace's reading of the mayor's proposal.
"The mayor's proposal seems to be even more stringent than what we have now," said Chairwoman Dr. Patricia Andrade.
The board voted to take the amendment under advisement, and the 50-plus residents in attendance seemed stunned.
City Councilors David Alves and Brian Gomes, who have led business owners protests of the ban, said they were surprised at the board's move last night.
"They're looking to make the policy more discriminatory," said Mr. Alves.
Some in attendance were upset that a meeting they thought would bring relief from the strict new policies was dominated by a consultant, paid by the State Department of Health, lecturing about the dangers of environmental tobacco smoke.
One angry resident suggested the ban itself was invalid because members Victor Rebello Jr. and Barbara Silva have not been re-appointed to the three-member board.
Mr. Rebello's three-year term ended last month and Ms. Silva has been serving without official re-appointment since February 1999, when her term expired.
No ifs, ands or butts
HYANNIS - Barnstable bartenders may still be quick with a joke, but they won't be lighting up your smoke as of April 3.Business loss anticipated
Bar and restaurant owners can expect a loss of business, according to Brian Sluis, general manager of the 400 East.
The Barnstable Board of Health last night unanimously approved a ban on smoking in all bars and restaurants. It will take effect on the first Monday in April.
Effective April 3, the town of Barnstable's new smoking restrictions will keep Daren Klebe, right, and other smokers from lighting up in town restaurants and bars. Klebe was at the Quarterdeck in Hyannis with friends last night.
Not everyone was breathing easier about the decision.
"It's unbelievable that three appointed officials can pass something this sweeping without listening to the people," said Peter Feeney, the owner of the Windjammer Lounge. He says most of his customers are smokers.
At the Quarterdeck in Hyannis, smoke swirled beneath the low ceiling as owner Errol Thompson said, "The revolution in this country was started in a tavern."
"This place is a saloon," added bartender Mel "Buster" Lucas. "We don't serve food. We don't serve anyone under 21."
"People here are usually working-class, and they come at the end of the day for a drink and to have a cigarette," Thompson said. "Now someone is telling them that even though they are adults, they have no choice."
But the board of health stood strong through several hearings and similar vocal opposition, making Barnstable the 122nd town in Massachusetts, and the second to last town on the Cape, to pass regulations limiting smoking in restaurants, said D.J. Wilson, of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
The only town remaining without smoking restrictions is Yarmouth, where a board of health vote on a full or partial smoking ban is scheduled Monday.
With Barnstable, the largest town on the Cape, electing the most restrictive ban possible more towns could alter less stringent regulations, said Don Gautrau of BREATHE (Bar and Restaurant patrons EAger To enjoy Healthy Eating).
He said he will push for a Capewide ban.
The 400 lies in comparatively smoke-friendly Harwich but is on the town line with Chatham, where smoking was banned in all bars and restaurants more than one year ago.
Sluis said his Harwich location picked up significant business when the Chatham ban passed.
Harwich has a regulation whereby smoking sections could be allowed in restaurants. That too could change this spring, when the question of passing a full ban goes before town meeting voters as a nonbinding referendum.
Sluis said he expects to lose 30 percent of his bar business.
"People will only travel so far," he said. "In general they just don't stay out as long and they don't spend as much money."
Mass. leads anti-smoking effort
Massachusetts is not a good place to be if you're pro-smoking these days, according to the National Smokers Alliance, a tobacco-industry funded group based in Alexandria, Va.
Since Ballot Question 1 passed in 1993, a 25-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes created the Department of Public Health's Tobacco Control Program. It's one of just two programs in the country, said Eric Schippers, executive director of the National Smokers Alliance.
Schippers - who acknowledges his organization receives the bulk of its funding from tobacco companies - said the funds "deputize" officials to become "the smoking police."
These anti-smoking campaigners attend hearings and work with local boards to pass smoking regulations. Today about half of the nation's cities and towns with strict smoking restrictions are in Massachusetts, said John Banzhaf, executive director of Action on Smoking and Health, or ASH, a national anti-smoking group in Washington, D.C.
While Massachusetts chips away at smoking bans town by town, five states have elected to go totally smoke free: California, Maine, Utah, Vermont and Maryland, Banzhaf said. (Bars are exempt from those bans except in California and Vermont.)
And the smoke-free wave is spreading. Smoking bans now extend to the great outdoors.
Banzhaf said smoking is not allowed during concerts at the Wolf Trap Park in Virginia, a Tweeter Center-type venue.
It's not allowed on any school grounds, even parking lots, in New Jersey public schools or outside the George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Divorce courts look unfavorably on a smoker during custody battle, he said.
Pro-smoking interests alive
But the pro-smokers say they are still on fire.
For example, the West Virginia Legislature Monday delayed for two weeks a law banning smoking in the vestibule leading to the delegates' chambers. As was reported in the Charleston, W.Va., Daily Mail, employees in the Statehouse must smoke outside, but the elected officials can still puff away indoors.
"We're holding our own," said Schippers. "For the most part, it's a local issue and regulators have good relationships with their business owners."
He said the 3 million members of his group report lost business due to smoking regulations.
"Our policy is to allow the marketplace to dictate," he said. "If 80 percent of your customers smoke, then you should be allowed to accommodate them. If 80 percent do not smoke, then it behooves the business owner to give them what they want."
But to Barnstable Board of Health member Sumner Kaufman it all comes down to a quote he read yesterday before the vote. It's from Sandra Steingraber's book, Living Downstream:
"Smoking is a dominant cause of lung cancer - all self-serving attempts by tobacco interests to cast doubt on this issue aside. About 3,000 deaths are thought to be attributable to secondhand smoke. So shocking is the statistic that it has rightfully prompted substantive changes in laws governing smoking in workplaces, airplanes, restaurants and other public domains."
Massachusetts Citizens for Freedom
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