I am a veterinarian in Lincoln County, and I have lived in McDuffie County for one year. I was excited to see Dr. Frank Powell and leaders at the medical center take such a progressive stand against smoking.
Smoking bans may be controversial to some, but they are quickly sweeping the nation as well as the State of Georgia. The motivation behind this movement is public health. The contents of second hand smoke and the negative affects of smoking are clear, convincing and proven beyond debate.
However, many see this as a personal choice issue. Some people do not believe that the government should interfere in this area. To the contrary, government is a necessary component to public health and safety. A smoker's freedom to choose must end at another citizen's health. There are many examples of government involvement in public health and food safety from agriculture, production and processing, all the way to the table. The government has regulations geared to ensure workplace safety. The government enforces guidelines for proper food handling and restaurant cleanliness. So it is not as simple as a restaurant owner deciding to do and to serve whatever it sees fit. Rather, it must be safe for employees and customers alike. It is a natural progression that the air should be fit to breathe. Businesses open to the public must conform to standards for public health. Standards for public health and safety will always be the responsibility of our government.
Opponents of smoking bans suggest that I should avoid businesses that allow smoking. This is not always possible or practical. Currently however, this is how I choose what restaurants to frequent. The question remains, "Can McDuffie County help lead the way to a healthier community?" A community with a regional medical facility and tremendous support for the Relay for Life should take progressive action to reduce cancer in the community.
I urge the McDuffie County Board of Commissioners to allow open debate on this issue. Discussion should not be limited to a planning session. Commissioners need to take a stand, one way or the other, in view of the voters. If the commissioners are not willing to take a stand, then allow the voters themselves to decide. This is the action of open responsible government. Please deal with this issue in the open; allow debate and voter participation.
Edward R. Pinson, DVM