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Smoking ban isn't a partisan problem

The Sun's editorial "Smoke signals" (Feb. 16) suggests that Maryland Democrats should seize the restaurant and bar smoking ban issue to help move the legislation through the State House and get the support of voters who back the idea.

To support this recipe for victory, the editorial serves up a hearty list of other states and jurisdictions that ban smoking, sprinkles in some data about second-hand smoke and adds just a pinch of the notion that Maryland voters "overwhelmingly support" a smoking ban (without identifying the source of such polls).

As good as it may sound, this dish is only half-baked.

Restaurant and bar owners believe that current smoking restrictions are sufficient and don't want to be forced into economic hardship or out of business.

Smoking ban supporters believe the dangers of secondhand smoke trump all economic arguments. Public officials are divided on the issue.

But to suggest that core convictions should be compromised in the interest of partisan politics is an insult to lawmakers who give thoughtful consideration and fair debate to every issue.

This issue should rise or fall solely on its own merits, and The Sun should resist the temptation to denigrate this issue into the gutter of partisanship.

Melvin R. Thompson


The writer is vice president for government relations of the Restaurant Association of Maryland.

Ban on smoking protects workers

Maryland, home to prestigious health institutions such as the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, prides itself on being a leader on health issues. And in the past it was.

Ten years ago, the percentage of indoor workers in Maryland employed in a smoke-free environment was one of the highest in the nation.

Fast forward to 2006 and we find that Maryland has fallen far behind. Currently, 11 states provide all workers with smoke-free workplaces, while Maryland shamefully still fails to protect food service workers ("Smoke signals," editorial, Feb. 16).

If working in a smoke-filled environment poses health risks for office workers, it poses the same risks for food preparers, servers and bartenders.

There is no reason for this inequitable treatment of one category of employees. The legislature can correct this injustice.

It can bring Maryland back to the front rank of states providing healthy work environments for all employees by quickly passing the Clean Indoor Act of 2006.

Kari Appler


The writer is director of Smoke Free Maryland.

Allowing smoking excludes patrons

As The Sun's editorial "Smoke signals" (Feb. 16) warns, health experts have concluded that secondhand tobacco smoke will prove fatal to some.

But one's own body is the indisputable judge of smoke's immediate, nonlethal injuries. And restaurants that permit smoking under Maryland's inadequate laws are off limits to my family because toxic smoke painfully irritates our lungs, nose and eyes.

This amounts to Jim Crow-like discrimination against health-conscious Marylanders by proprietors who, in effect, choose to exclude us from a place of public accommodation.

Steven V. Sklar


Schaefer's remarks rude and insensitive

State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer's comment to the young female aide was rude, insensitive and offensive; his subsequent lack of contrition was appalling ("Schaefer remarks get little defense," Feb. 17).

Shame on him for treating Elizabeth Krum like a Westminster Kennel Club show entrant, and for suggesting she should be "damn happy" for the opportunity to "walk again" as he eyed her.

Carrie M. Bowman


Press gives Schaefer attention he craves

As I read with interest "Schaefer flap spurs shrugs, indignation, but no apology" (Feb. 17), I pictured a lonely old man who thrives on finding any sort of publicity to survive.

From time to time, this pompous individual has to get his name in the paper, and, of course, The Sun is the perfect venue for his self-serving behavior.

Why should this young lady be "damn happy that I observed her going out the door," as state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer put it?

Mr. Schaefer should be "damn happy" he was elected comptroller in the first place. He acts as if the citizens of Maryland owe him a living.

It's a shame that a little of former Comptroller Louis Goldstein's gentlemanly ways didn't rub off on Mr. Schaefer.

And why is Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich so muted on this situation? Because he needs Mr. Schaefer. He's afraid of Mr. Schaefer.

What a shame. What a sad day for Maryland politics.

W. W. Jones


Why didn't governor rebuke comptroller?

More galling than state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer's sexual harassment of a member of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s staff was the deafening silence from the governor in response.

It is clear from the television footage that Mr. Ehrlich had every opportunity to respectfully put a hand on his old chum's arm and sternly advise him that asking a female staff person to perform for his pleasure was completely unacceptable in his administration.

The governor would have been a hero if he had demanded an immediate apology and not settled for an illegible dashed-off note some days after the fact ("Schaefer admits he upset woman," Feb. 18).

The true test of a person's character does not come from his or her talking points, but is shown by how he or she performs when surprised by a situation that calls for morally courageous leadership.

In giving Mr. Schaefer, in effect, a pass to sexually harass a staff member, Mr. Ehrlich showed Maryland what he is truly made of.

Jacob Dover


Allow the old guy his harmless fun

I find it rather hard to believe that so much attention has been given to the remarks made by state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer to the governor's young aide ("Schaefer admits he upset woman," Feb. 18).

Everybody should be aware that such remarks may be inappropriate at a board meeting, but that they are harmless and go along with being an "old guy."

I can remember going to Ocean City as a teenager in the early 1940s. The old Atlantic Hotel was situated on the boardwalk.

It was a large frame building, several stories high, with wide porches surrounding it. It was a favorite sport for the old men to sit on the porches, in their rocking chairs, wearing glasses on their noses with eyeballs on springs that sprung out at the young girls as the old guys rocked. We just laughed and went on our merry way.

As for the comptroller, I say: Let the old guy have his innocent fun.

Elizabeth Myers


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