It is a given that tobacco is harmful, in all its forms. Smoke, spit, secondhand - it is all harmful. And there really is no debate on this subject anymore.

Senate Bill 2300 passed the Senate and is now under consideration in the House of Representatives. It is an honest bill, because it takes the direct approach of recognizing the danger inherent in tobacco, and removes it from public and workplace venues where the habits of a few can harm the health of many. It simply says that if you are in a place where other patrons or fellow workers breathe the same air, you do not have the privilege of lighting small fires to tarry substances so that everyone is forced to breathe in the smoke. That sounds reasonable to me.

Arguments have been made that this is an individual rights issue, that an owner of a public place or workplace can allow someone to light small fires in his or her public place, and that we can separate the people who don't want to breathe in the smoke so that they don't smell it. This guarantees the individual rights of everyone except the people trying to avoid the smoke from the small fires that have been lit elsewhere. Yes, they have the right to leave.

The Serbs gave that right to the Bosnians, too, but the world did not consider that to be a right. They considered it to be the tyranny of a few abusing the rights of a majority.

Owners of workplaces protect their workers from other environmental hazards hardhats, eye protection, earmuffs and steel-toed boots are all very common in the workplace. It stands to reason that clean air to breathe should reasonably be among those protections.

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Society has set rules that prevent injury to the many by a few since before the days of common law. Senate Bill 2300 is another one of those rules. The Legislature should pass this bill to protect all workers (including restaurant and bar workers) and patrons from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

Keith Johnson

Mandan, N.D.