Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thank you County Executive Ehlmann

Dear County Executive Ehlmann,

Thank you for doing the right thing and vetoing the proposed smoking ban today. In your letter to the County Council, you explained that "when a regulation is passed to improve public health, exceptions to that regulation should be rationally related to the same public health good."

Let me suggest that an "over 21" exemption for all workplaces, such as the one in force in the State of Tennessee, in contrast to a casino exemption, would pass any fairness or rationality test. Government often allows adults to freely choose risks in employment and recreation that minors are not allowed to accept. For instance, OSHA allows adult workers to choose riskier jobs in exchange for hazard pay and, of course, government allow adults, but not minors, to purchase cigarettes. An "over 21" exemption would not be "picking winners" by favoring any one type of business over others, but rather asking all individual businesses to make a choice. Any casino, bar or restaurant could allow smoking if those not capable of accepting risk, minors, were kept out. Please find the Tennessee smoking ban attached. Here is the Tennessee exemption:

Another rational exemption would be a ventilation/filtration option offered equally to all businesses. Prior to the Illinois smoking ban, the City of Chicago's smoking ban exempted those establishments that could get their indoor air as clean as the air outdoors. Clearly this exemption has a rational basis and has many precedents in OSHA's regulation of other industries. Here is the exemption to the Chicago ordinance:

"Any public place or place of employment otherwise subject to this Chapter whose owner or operator can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the commissioner of public health and the commissioner of the environment, that such area has been equipped with air filtration or purification devices or similar technologies as to render the exposure to secondhand smoke in such area, notwithstanding the fact that smoking may be occurring in such area, equivalent to such exposure to secondhand smoke in the ambient outdoor air surrounding the establishment. The commissioner of public health and the commissioner of the environment are jointly authorized to promulgate regulations specifying what types of technologies, when and if available, and taking into account any applicable Federal and/or State standards, satisfy the requirements of this paragraph."

Again, County Executive Ehlmann, thank you for your brave action today!


Bill Hannegan