Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2004

Web chats detail smoking ban contentions

April 22, 2004

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The debate over a proposed smoking ban for Lawrence bars and restaurants went online Wednesday during a pair of separate but dueling chats with Journal-World readers.

Dr. John Hiebert, a Lawrence cardiologist who supports a ban, and Chuck Magerl, the Free State Brewing Co. owner in opposition to a ban, answered questions for about a half-hour each.

They touched on several topics during the course of their chats.

  • On how secondhand smoke affects the health of employees:

"The overwhelming findings are that (secondhand smoke) is directly associated with lung diseases (asthma, cancer), heart attacks and reproductive diseases including sudden infant death syndrome," Hiebert said.

"When I reviewed the specific concerns for my employees, the multiple studies that I drew from suggested the possibility of one incident of lung cancer among our nonsmoking employees for every 949 years we are in business," Magerl said.

  • On how bars and restaurants would fare in the wake of a smoking ban:

"The data available from a number of cities in the U.S. -- Boston, New York, El Paso -- have shown that workplace bans have been revenue neutral (at worst) to the hospitality industry," Hiebert said. "The most recent study (in New York) ... demonstrated significant increases in revenue."

"The relationship between tobacco smoking and social drinking is certainly a strong connection," Magerl said. "While nearly 80 percent of the adults in Lawrence are not smokers, the customers at bars and restaurants in the later evening hours are nearly a reverse of that proportion. Whether nonsmokers are simply not interested in the bar lifestyle of late night Lawrence, or if they have been discouraged because of the nuisance of smoke, is the question that bar owners are bracing themselves to find out."

  • On the prospects of a citywide referendum on the issue:

"A 1999 survey of Lawrence citizens documented that more than 85 percent of individuals favored a workplace smoking ban," Hiebert said. "I am extremely confident that after implementation of such a ban that the approval of a ban will increase with time -- with both the citizens and businesses in Lawrence."

"The need to coordinate the effort from now until November (the possible date for the election) will be a grand challenge, and a core of dedicated individuals with a good sense of humor will be crucial," Magerl said.

  • Other thoughts:

"It is true that excessive calorie consumption and eating certain foods is associated with shortened life expectancy," Hiebert said. "What one person consumes does not impact directly on the health of another person -- which is the case in the circumstance of secondhand smoke. My answer is no, I would not support a ban on meat/poultry sales."

"History is a funny thing," Magerl said. "As you may know, Kansas prohibited tobacco from 1906 until 1923, a portion of the Carry Nation legacy. At that time, people thought the country was on the threshold of a new era of perfection in society. Things didn't really continue in that direction, and I'm not sure that we should count on it this time around either."

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