The Tallgrass Activist will always ardently and vociferously support gay rights and the rights of other groups suffering discrimination.  GBLT publications should also display sensitivity to the rights of oppressed workers.

The current issue of Liberty Press features an article regarding the Kansas Indoor Clean Air Act, which took effect on July 1.  As indicated on the cover, the focus of the article was “How the Local GLBT Community Thinks the Law Will Impact Them.”  The contents were mostly about how patrons of bars felt about prohibition on indoor, public smoking.  It included the typical whining by libertarians and business owners about infringement on their rights.

The article included nothing about the ravaging effects of environmental tobacco smoke on the health of employees in the hospitality industry.  It would have been nice to see something in the article about nonsmoker heart disease, lung disease, cancers, and other maladies caused by exposure to cigarette smoke.  What right do smokers have to make other people sick?

As someone with a leading role in passage of the groundbreaking Lawrence Smoking Ordinance, which took effect in 2005, I was not primarily concerned about the comfort of bar and restaurant patrons who find cigarette smoke as offensive as I do.  I did not spend all that time on meetings, research, and lobbying so people could go out to dinner or to bars and feel more comfortable. 

The Federal government, through the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), has implemented regulations, which protect a large proportion of American workers from a host of toxic substances.  In the early 1990s, OSHA issued a set of regulations on clean indoor air.  These regulations, which included environmental tobacco smoke, were never approved.  Why?

OSHA employees who were part of the process have told me that they had never seen an assault on regulations like the one unleashed by the tobacco and restaurant industries  on the clean indoor air regs.  By the end of the Clinton Administration, the regs had not been approved and the Bush Administration just let them die.

In the meantime, we have had to fight it out from city to city and state to state.  It is hard to know how many low wage, uninsured bar and restaurant workers have suffered harmful health effects as a result of the barriers erected by neo-conservatives, libertarians, and business owners.

My message to the selfish and the greedy is this:  it’s over.  The time has come.  You can no longer make other people sick because you want to smoke at any time and place of your choosing.  You have to consider other people.

  Recently, we traveled through Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.  At no time did we encounter a “smoking restaurant.”  This trip through “tobacco country” tells me that it is time for businesses who want to sue and lose to just move on.