Smoking in the workplace: The D.C. City Council is considering a bill that would restrict it to designated areas. I say hooray, huzzah and pass it tomorrow. Here's what the readers say:
"I feel you are on the wrong tack as regards Bill 6-213, the Clean Air in the Workplace Act . . . . What next? How about a law against playing 'boom boxes' in public places? Now there's an issue I could really get behind!" -- O. Jay Arwood of Rockville.
'Boom boxes' annoy. Smoking kills. Nuff sed, Jay?
"Come on. This Bill 6-213 is ridiculous . . . . Some of us don't have the time to leave our desks to go to a 'smoking zone.' Some of us do work at work. I don't force religion or politics on anyone, so why should they force an issue on me?" -- Jeanie Jensen of McLean.
Religion and politics don't have a here-and-now effect on others, Jeanie. Smoking does. Bill 6-213 doesn't force smokers to stop smoking. It simply gives nonsmokers a way to avoid the mushroom clouds. Yes, it will be inconvenient for a smoker to get up and move to another place to smoke, as 6-213 would require. But that's hardly coercion.
"I feel it is about time we give nonsmokers a right to breathe clean air . . . . We're doing something about drunk drivers impinging on society's rights. What about smokers? Let's keep them in their own fog." -- Shawn Gritz of Silver Spring.
Bill 6-213 would do no more and no less, Shawn.
"Your article about the proposed smoking ordinance is so blatantly slanted that it nearly defies description. Many of us who smoke are extremely considerate of our fellow workers. I bought and use a clean-air machine, for the convenience of my nonsmoking colleagues. And all of the smokers I know put out offending cigarettes -- with good grace, I might add -- when asked . . . . " -- P.M. of Arlington.
A clean-air machine? I've been around offices for nearly a quarter of a century, P.M., and I have never seen a smoker buy or use a clean-air machine to undo the effects of his smoke. Just because you do it doesn't mean everyone will. Nor have I seen many smokers stub out their butts when asked -- with good grace or without. More common than sweet smiles are groans, curses and eyes rolled toward the heavens. What Bill 6-213 would do is to make any show of emotion -- be it smiles or be it curses -- unnecessary. The bill would remove the smoking question from the level of "Joe the nonsmoker wants a favor" and put it on the level of "Joe the nonsmoker has equal rights." That sounds fairer and better, if you ask me.
"A smoker gets tired of all this hassle. I'm not an inconsiderate person, nor unfeeling in this area, either. But this is a problem that has to be worked out between the people involved, not by a government bill. It's another law that invades the privacy of all individuals . . . . " -- Annette Hall of Arlington.
I wish you were right, Annette. I wish that individuals could work this out among themselves. Sadly, they don't always seem to be able to. If cigarettes had been invented yesterday, we'd have a better chance. But smoking has been the rule in the workplace for more than 100 years. So, in order to equalize rights, smokers are the ones who have to give a little. Sure, that's a hassle. But it's done in the name of fairness to all, not harassment.
"I just read your column and am rather confused. The bill allows smoking in . . . . federal government offices. Why? Are they different from any other office? [All offices] should be included in this bill." -- Jean Young of Falls Church.
I agree emphatically, Jean. But the D.C. City Council doesn't have jurisdiction over federal government offices.
"Although I no longer smoke . . . . I am getting alarmed by what I perceive to be vigilantism. In my office we have smoking and nonsmoking rooms. I continue to sit in a smoking room because it really does not bother me. I believe that smoking does not actually bother most people . . . . However, most people kick up a fuss about it to show their 'moral superiority.' " -- Janet Crane of Springfield.
You really think smoking doesn't bother nonsmokers, Janet? I beg to differ -- and so does our next correspondent.
"Smoking is unhealthy. It is annoying. It is dirty . . . . It is a fire hazard. Crossing the street today, some guy's ashes blew all over me and now my hair smells like smoke. At work, several times I have had to get up from my desk because my nose burns so bad and my eyes are itching and watering . . . . " -- Maria E. Rowles of Alexandria.
That doesn't sound like a voice of 'moral superiority' to me. It sounds more like someone who's genuinely uncomfortable -- and who has rights that aren't being protected.
"I'd be pleased to see the bill passed for the simple reason that it has been an issue for so long now that something needs to be done to resolve the problem. This bill presents a good compromise and the fairest solution for smokers and nonsmokers alike . . . ." -- Elizabeth A. Di Benedetto of Oakton.
You probably think Elizabeth is a rabid antismoker. Far from it. She's a two-pack-a-dayer. If even heavy smokers see the benefits of Bill 6-213, can the City Council fail to do the same?