My Turn: Be responsible: Don't let clean air advocates speak for you

Posted: Thursday, February 05, 2004

I 'd really like to think that members of the Juneau Assembly were approaching the "smoke-free workplace" issue with open minds, but experience with past decision-making processes of the Assembly doesn't give me much hope (utility rates being just one case in point).

It wouldn't surprise me a bit if certain individuals on the Assembly were themselves members of the Juneau Clean Air Coalition. As such, they'd certainly be open-minded about considering the ramifications of their vote on that issue, wouldn't they? I'm always amazed how those espousing to be doing "good things for the people" try to pass themselves off as caring, concerned and totally unselfish representatives of the masses. Notice, however, that it's always their way with no compromises.

Could one business choose to be smoke-free while another chooses not to be, both accepting the consequences of their decisions? Is it logical that those patronizing those establishments would also be demonstrating that they too would be willing to accept the consequences of that patronage? Absolutely not! Freedom of choice be damned! The clean air coalition will do everything they can to protect these ignorant, misguided and harmful businesses/individuals from themselves. The ironic part of this whole issue is that many of those trying to deny businesses and/or individuals the freedom to "legally" conduct themselves as they see fit are ardent supporters of a woman's right to choose - it's OK to abort a baby (that's not harmful), but smoking must be eliminated because it is harmful. It's also curious that, according to these same individuals, a woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her own body. Why is it then that prostitution is illegal?

America prides itself on its freedoms, not only allowing special interest (often minority) groups the right to demonstrate and be heard, but doing so no matter what the majority might think (Ku Klux Clan, ACLU, et al.). That's the American way. It only becomes a travesty when politicians, because of their omnipotent view from on-high, feel compelled to ignore the will of the people and impose their own interpretation of what's best (not legal or illegal). Unfortunately, with the assistance of an increasingly secular and liberal court system, this process is becoming more and more common.

For me, the clean air argument is totally a "freedom of choice" issue. I haven't smoked for over 20 years and my wife has never smoked. In fact, smoke bothers both of us but we are usually intelligent enough not to go where those kinds of conditions exist. We don't try to force others to conform to our personal likes and dislikes, however. This is especially true when the actions in question are legal. As mentioned earlier, this issue is not about legal or illegal (that's what the coalition wants to make it); it's about personal rights, choices and freedoms - yours.

Like the Juneau Clean Air Coalition, I encourage you to contact Assembly members with your thoughts, whatever they might be. With rights come responsibilities. Be responsible! I'm not sure it will do any good, but I'm fairly sure that not everyone on the Assembly has made up his/her mind on the issue.

• William Suss is a retired educator with over 30 years experience as a teacher and administrator. He has lived in Juneau for 23 years.

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