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EDITORIAL: OUR VIEW: A strong statewide anti-smoking policy makes sense from not only a health angle, but from a fiscally conservative perspective as well 

Jump to full article: Birmingham (AL) News, 2011-03-27
Author: Birmingham News editorial board


It's too bad passing a strong statewide smoking policy isn't part of the Republican Party's Handshake with Alabama.

As part of their strategy for taking control of the Legislature, Republicans put together the handshake, a platform of priorities they'd tackle once they were in charge. . . .

If these GOP lawmakers truly are the fiscal conservatives they claim to be, they should also enthusiastically adopt the bill by state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, to end smoking in almost every public place statewide.

The why is easy: Last year, a national study on smoking showed that Alabama's economy suffers $5.6 billion a year in direct costs because of smoking, including more than $1 billion in lost workplace productivity and $1.7 billion in direct medical expenditures.

These are real costs. While McClurkin's bill doesn't outlaw smoking, it does protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, and studies confirm that thousands of Alabamians die or are made ill by secondhand smoke every year.

Yes, it would be great if lawmakers were moved to act because they have compassion for their fellow Alabamians, but this is the Legislature we're talking about. . . .

On regulating smoking, the Legislature should go for the touchdown. That would be a bill like McClurkin's. Banning smoking in bars, restaurants and even enclosed places in private clubs doesn't just protect customers in those places; as important as anything, such restrictions protect servers and other employees, who often have no choice but to work in a smoky environment.

Meanwhile, the cost of smoking to the state is steep. A Penn State University study released in 2010 shows nearly $125 million a year is spent by Alabamians in nursing homes directly as a result of smoking. Alabamians also spend $842 million a year on drugs directly as a result of smoking.

A bill like McClurkin's would curb some of those expenses. That would be worthy of the Republicans' Handshake with Alabama.

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