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Smoking ban in Bamberg

Dear Editor,

The Bamberg City Council is now considering the passage of an ordinance banning smoking in any public building in Bamberg for the safety of the citizens of this city and the surrounding area.

If this is passed it means that the patrons of a restaurant, and other places, in Bamberg cannot smoke while in that building. The reason for such a law is not to protect the health of the smoker, but to stop a person from smoking to protect the health of those others in the building from the harmful effects of the exhaled smoke. This is also known as secondhand or downstream smoke.

Secondhand smoke is a harmful and toxic substance inflicted on one person by the actions of another. Picture the scene in a restaurant if a person entered the door carrying a bomb or, better, if a person entered carrying a canister of a poison gas. When seated he opened the valve and allowed the “poison gas” to escape into the atmosphere. Now this “gas” (secondhand smoke) has been declared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be toxic in any concentration, that there is no risk-free level of exposure. In its Fact Sheet on Secondhand Smoke it also says that this smoke “contains at least 250 chemicals known to be toxic, including more than 50 that can cause cancer.”

In this same Fact Sheet, it says:

  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes heart disease and lung cancer in non-smoking adults.
  • Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25-30% and their lung cancer risk by 20-30%.
  • Breathing secondhand smoke has immediate harmful effects on the cardiovascular system that can increase the risk of heart attack. People who already have heart disease are at especially high risk.
  • Secondhand smoke exposure causes respiratory symptoms in children and slows their lung growth.
  • Secondhand smoke causes sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more frequent and more severe asthma attacks in children.
  • Each year in the United States, secondhand smoke exposure is responsible for 150,000 – 300,000 new cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in children aged less than 18 months. This results in 7,500 – 15,000 hospitalizations, annually.

The California Environmental Protection Agency estimates that secondhand smoke exposure causes approximately 3,400 lung cancer deaths and 22,000 – 69,600 heart disease deaths annually among adult nonsmokers in the United States.

There are those who will say that this is an effort to infringe on their personal freedom to prevent them from smoking. Judge Learned Hand, of the US Supreme Court, is quoted as saying, “The freedom of your fist ends at the tip of my nose.” We are not free to harm others.

In this situation those who are most at risk are not the patrons but are the employees who are confined with exposure to secondhand smoke for eight or more hours as a condition of their employment. A simplistic solution may be to say that they could work somewhere else, but jobs are not that plentiful and the employer is obligated to provide a safe environment where employees can work without harm.

The owner of the restaurant may be afraid that he will lose business with this ban in place, but where studied it has been shown that this is not the case. There has been no negative financial impact associated with a smoking ban in places where it has been studied.

It is interesting to note that our South Carolina State Senate is considering a bill that will make it a felony, with a $100 fine, to smoke in an automobile in which a child, ten years of age or younger, is a passenger. This bill was passed unanimously in committee and is now before the full senate.

This is a very important step that our city needs to take. Please contact your representative on the council and encourage them to vote in favor of this. If a public meeting is called on this subject, encourage all your friends to attend with you and express your opinion.

Michael C. Watson, MD, Bamberg, SC

I need your assistance

Dear Editor,

I am fifty-nine years old and I have been enjoying fishing in South Carolina near my home since I was old enough to hold a fishing pole. There is nothing more enjoyable to me than going in the Salkehatchie Swamp and spending several hours trying to catch a mess of Redbreast, Jack fish, or other kinds of fish.

All of that has changed in the past few years. The woods along this special river are being harvested for timber, and by law the loggers are supposed to leave at least a fifty foot buffer zone by the run. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. Even if they do leave a buffer zone that only makes the tragedy worse. They clear-cut many, many acres outside the buffer zone and when a wind storm comes along there is nothing there to stop the wind from blowing down the few trees left by the river. These few trees have their root system very close to the surface of the soil because of the wet condition which makes them very easy to blow over.

The main tragedy I am concerned about is the Little Salkehatchie River that crosses Highway 63 at Sniders Crossroads. The directions to get there are as follows. From Ehrhardt take Highway 64 East towards Walterboro. Go approximately thirteen miles to Bells Crossroads, which is the intersection of Highway 64 and Highway 21. Turn right on Highway 21 towards Yemessee. Go approximately eight to ten miles to Sniders Crossroads, which is the intersection of Highway 21 and Highway 63. Turn right on Highway 63 towards Islandton. Go approximately two miles to the bridges over the Salkehatchie River. The boat landing is on the left side of the second bridge. The swamp run is blocked by trees downstream from the bridge and upstream from the bridge. The majority of fishermen put their boats in at the landing and go downstream to Clearlake and other lakes beyond. Now you can only go fifty yards before the river is completely blocked by trees. This year no one has been able to fish here in this very popular area because of the trees blocking the river.

All of the other public landings on the Little Salkehatchie River and the Big Salkehatchie River are blocked as well. For example, the landing at the Rivers Bridge State park on Highway 641 and the landing at the Broxton Bridge on Highway 601 are blocked by fallen trees. It would take a Track-Hoe or other piece of large equipment a short time to go down the edge of the runs and pull these trees onto the banks and clear the rivers.

A few months ago I contacted three professionals in Columbia asking for assistance in this matter: Mrs. Laura Boos of the Core of Engineers, at telephone 803-253-3902, Mr. Guy Sabien of the U.S. Forestry Commission at telephone 803-896-8593, and Mr. Chris Beckham of DHEC, at telephone 803-898-4261. None of them offered any solution. I was informed that there was no funding available for a project like this.

There are so many laws that we abide by as well as licenses to purchase in order to enjoy fishing. Even the boat and its motor used in this sport have to be registered. In return for the money spent, which I understand is ongoing funding for the State of SC, could some of the revenue be spent to clear the trees out of the places I have described? I am asking for your consideration in improving the environment by clearing these areas so that local fishermen can once again enjoy the outdoor resources we have.

Clyde Ayer, Ehrhardt, SC

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