While employees and visitors in other governmental buildings are afforded a workplace free from secondhand smoke toxins, the same is not true for our state Capitol building.
By STAN COWAN
Special to The Star
The Missouri House of Representatives rejected an amendment for all areas of the House to become smoke-free.
Instead it opted for each partys caucus to determine office smoking policies for their members. The minority caucus, the Democrats, adopted a smoke-free policy.
Now its time for the majority caucus to act responsibly.
Recently the majority caucus announced it is considering a policy to let lawmakers continue smoking in their offices while encouraging them to be conscientious and respectful.
They suggested posting signs on doors; smokers providing equipment to mitigate smoke leaving their offices; smoking only between 6 p.m. and midnight; and leaving a window open.
It seems a small but influential number of representatives who insist upon smoking in their offices are preventing adoption of a smoke-free policy, the only way that is truly conscientious and respectful of fellow legislators, staff and visitors.
Flaws in the caucus suggestions defy the laws of physics.
• A sign posted on a door does not keep smoke from infiltrating into neighboring offices or from entering the ventilation system to be distributed elsewhere in the building.
• Using equipment to mitigate smoke emanating from their offices is not a viable solution either.
The American Society for Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers concluded no air cleaning or filtration systems can be relied upon to adequately remove the toxins of secondhand smoke from the air. They stated the best solution is to not allow smoking in indoor environments.
• Smoking only between 6 p.m. and midnight still means the non-smokers in the building during those hours will continue to be exposed to this known cause for respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
• Leaving a window open, especially during cold weather, is wasteful of expensive energy and simply callous stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
If legislators who smoke truly want to be conscientious and respectful, they will support a smoke-free office policy and stop posing a threat to the health of others.
There are a number of smokeless options available that can satisfy their nicotine cravings during the times theyre indoors.
Better yet, quitting tobacco would be conscientious and respectful to their own health.
The majority caucus has an opportunity to do what is right and be praised for it. Also important, they will show the busloads of school children who visit the Capitol each year that they are good role models by no longer permitting smoking in the Capitol, the peoples building.
Polite and courteous encouragement may be sent to your state representative and to Rep. John Diehl, chair of the majority caucus, at John.Diehl@house.missouri.gov.
Stan Cowan of Jefferson City is retired from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, where he worked on efforts to prevent tobacco use.