In response to the letter by M.W. Wynn (Forum, Nov. 4), I assure him that I have my eyes, ears and nostrils open on the issue of tobacco smoking in public restaurants. If he were in attendance at the public hearing held Nov. 18 at the South City campus of Salt Lake Community College, he would have seen his tobacco-lobby statistics given a proper burial.
As to the economic argument:There is no credible evidence that banning smoking in restaurants causes economic harm to restaurants. The UCSF School of Public Health study clearly points this out. In a written letter to the hearing officers, the author of the study, Dr. Stan Glanz, refutes the statistically gerrymandered study that Wynn and Randy Cole of the California Restaurant Association cite.
It may be of some interest that Oakland, Calif., has just become one of more than 500 communities across the country to become smoke-free. Apparently, Cole was unsuccessful even in his own state. The board has a similar letter from Aspen, Colo., officials that state there is no economic harm.
As to the "rights" issue:
Commissioner Randy Horiuchi stated that he "questioned the propriety of government inserting itself into the rights of the individual and especially of small business." He suggested that the people vote with their feet and that restaurants had the option of choice to go smoke-free.
I must say that I was disappointed in his and Commissioner Jim Bradley's opposition. I heard nothing in his comments about the workers in the restaurants and the environment in which they work. Is he suggesting that restaurant employees simply exercise their option to leave?
I would remind the commissioners that government inserts itself into small business in many ways; thus we see food handlers permits, licensing practices, controls of water, waste and air. There are people to monitor wood-burning stoves, car emissions and waste disposal. We prohibit the selling of tobacco and alcohol to minors, restrict smoking in public buildings, the Huntsman Center, the Delta Center and in airplanes and buses.
Using the commissioners' logic, people don't "have to" go to these centers, nor do they "have to" take buses or planes. These restrictive requirements promote and protect the general safety and well-being of the public.
The burden of the compelling scientific evidence demands action to remove or restrict the public health threat that passive smoking poses. Could it be that the American Cancer Society, the Utah Lung Association, the Intermountain Thoracic Society, the American Heart Association, the Salt Lake County Medical Society and the Utah State Medical Association are all wrong?
People will still have the right to destroy their lungs. They do not have the right to endanger the lungs of the unwilling or the underaged. I believe that the public wants this change.
Kirk M. Gilmore, M.D.
Salt Lake City-County Board of Health