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Sarasota News Leader April 12, 2013 OPINION do to allow cities and counties to trample on the rights of those poor nicotine fiends as they spew their effluvium onto their hapless victims —otherwise known as the vast majority of Florida residents and our free-spending tourism visitors, who collectively, at least in the eyes of the Legislature, apparently have no rights to take a deep breath without gagging. In a particularly galling display of callous timing, the House let the bill die last week, just in time for the statewide observance of Tobacco Free Florida Week, April 6-13. Page 58 In a perfect world, the Legislature would be doing all in its power to encourage and nurture the important work of Tobacco Free Florida, given the tremendous benefits of healthier citizens and a healthier economy. But there is nothing perfect about the cloistered world of the state capitol. Legislators are unconcerned about the child who will never grow to adulthood because his asthma is so uncontrolled each breath is a torment. They are unconcerned about the lung cancer patient wasting away to a sliver of her former self. They are unconcerned about the emphysema sufferer slowly drowning as his lungs fill up with fluid. They are unconcerned about colds, flus and allergies made significantly worse for millions in the state because nonsmokers cannot escape those whose "rights" are protected and who continue polluting the air around them. Tobacco Free Florida was created as a result of the overwhelming passage in November 2006 of a constitutional amendment that mandated the reinstatement of a statewide tobacco education and use prevention program. This is the fifth year of Tobacco Free Florida Week, which seeks to raise awareness of the In prostituting themselves with the powerful risks of smoking and secondhand smoke. tobacco lobby, state legislators, especially State officials report that about 72,000 Florid- House members, have sold, if not their souls, ians have managed to kick the noxious hab- certainly their integrity and credibility. Their it directly as a result of Tobacco Free Flori- smarmy platitudes about "overreaching" and da interventions. All told, more than 500,000 "personal freedom" are as abominable as the adult smokers in Florida have kicked the habit grim instruments of death and despair that in the past five years, along with more than Tobacco Free Florida seeks to banish. Their 70,000 youths. As a result of these important callous disregard for the health and welfare of Floridians is a tacit breach of their commitlifestyle changes, the state's healthcare system ment to the people they were elected to serve. has saved more than $4 billion. Perhaps each county's elections supervisor Regardless of the hard work of Tobacco Free henceforth should encourage smoking at the Florida, 28,000 Floridians still die each year entrance of every polling place. And perhaps from smoking and tobacco-related diseas- voters, as they navigated a putrid haze of es. The state shoulders almost $20 billion in smoke and toxic chemicals, would reflect on healthcare costs and lost productivity as a re- the Tallahassee malefactors who made such a sult of smoking. gauntlet possible ... and vote accordingly.

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