It was a bit of a shock to see three opinions with big headlines in Sunday's Oct. 15 paper, all saying what the tobacco industry has been saying about second-hand smoke. Are we witnessing another invasion of the National Smoker's Alliance (NSA), which moved into Morgantown three years ago to stop local efforts to restrict smoking in public enclosed places?
In the fall of 1997, the NSA, a phony group for Phillip Morris Tobacco, hired a Morgantown lawyer to organize restaurant and bar owners to spread misinformation about local clean indoor air policies. But since then, secret tobacco company documents have made it clear that Phillip Morris, the NSA, firefighters and hospitality groups have all worked together to stop local efforts to protect the public from second-hand smoke. This is simply an outrage.
Let's be honest. Big Tobacco doesn't give a hoot about people's rights to breathe clean indoor air, or what's good for small business. They will use any means they can to stop local clean air efforts like the one proposed by the Harrison-Clarksburg Board of Health because it hurts their bottom line -- cigarette sales.
As the clean indoor air issue moves forward in Harrison County, be prepared to hear more about so-called "government interference," "smokers' rights" and predictions of economic disaster. When you hear these claims, keep in mind that the vast majority of West Virginians have supported laws and regulations to restrict smoking in restaurants and public places for many years.
Since 1991, 43 counties in West Virginia have adopted Clean Indoor Air Regulations. It is time for Harrison County to move forward to protect the health of its citizens from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.