Thursday, March 5, 2009


Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ) - Saturday, May 5, 2007

I've waited two decades for the smoking ban that went into law on May 1. For 20 years, the Arizona Legislature passed over anti-smoking bills year after year.

I was at a bar in central Phoenix a couple of weeks ago, waiting to see one of the finest bands to come out of Arizona, a group that hasn't performed in the state for four years, the Beat Angels. There was so much smoke in this bar, I had to leave well before the band took the stage. If they would have waited two weeks, I could have thoroughly enjoyed the show.

I have been an anti-smoking advocate all my life and I wonder why it took an initiative rather than the state Legislature to enact a statewide smoking ban. Could it be the golden rule for state legislators? Those with the gold make the rules! Tobacco companies do have the gold that health organizations do not.

How I became so anti-tobacco is an interesting ordeal. When I was young, still in grade school, my father had his first heart attack. I can still see in my mind the ambulances, my mother, sisters and me crying. He survived, but it was discovered his heart attack was induced from asthma, emphysema and bronchitis. He was not a smoker, but my mother and brother were.

So I discovered the harmful effects of smoking and secondhand smoke several years before the surgeon general would link smoking with health-related illnesses and almost a decade before tobacco products were required to have health warnings on them.

The story continues. While working in Denver, I had a coworker who actually smoked at her desk (right next to mine) -- chain-smoking no less.

I went to the company doctors (yes, companies threw money around back then and even had several company doctors) and complained. The doctor told me the office had ventilation and I had nothing to worry about. This was the early '80s! There was no such phrase as "secondhand smoke" at that time.

Shortly after that, Denver enacted a smoking ban in office buildings. This only 40 years after tobacco companies got our World War II soldiers addicted to tobacco through free cigarettes. At the time, most actors were smoking in movies and on television. In one generation, anti-tobacco advocates have turned the tide on all the gold owned by tobacco companies, the Tobacco Institute and others.

It was a core of volunteers, spearheaded by the then leadership of America West Airlines that delivered a one-two punch to the tobacco industry in the late 1980s. First, through the defeat of the smokeless cigarette, followed by eliminating smoking on all domestic airline flights of two hours or less. That was less than 20 years ago.

So I'd like to thank all those who helped pass the 2006 anti-smoking restriction. Arizonans also levied a heavy tax burden on tobacco in that election. Arizonans should be congratulated for their efforts to improve the health of its citizens. If left up to the state Legislature, it would have never happened.