The Anaheim Chamber of Commerce's "leave us alone" response to the City Council's request for comments on the proposed city smoking ordinance is typical of the remarks to be expected from an anti-regulatory organization that has not seen a smoking control ordinance in action in its community.
In California, 63 cities and counties representing over 45% of the state's population have adopted regulations that require smoking policies in private workplaces. The chambers of commerce in most of these communities strongly opposed the ordinances before they were passed and predicted the same sort of dire consequences as those imagined by the Anaheim chamber.
Once the ordinances were enacted, they were found to be very routine in their implementation, with few complaints or problems. When asked how the ordinances were working, the typical responses from chamber officials were, "no major problems," and "almost no problems at all."
Those few communities around the country that have experimented with "voluntary legislation" have found this approach does not work, and most of these programs have been replaced with mandatory ordinances.
Perhaps the poor prediction record of the chambers of commerce is a result of the quality of information on smoking ordinances they receive from the Tobacco Institute. These are the folks who still claim that smoking is not harmful to smokers, the medical equivalent of stating in public that the earth is flat.
Now that the Anaheim City Council has heard from the corporate bosses and their friends in the chamber, it's time for the employees to have their say. It is, after all, the people who live and work in Anaheim who will be most directly affected by the ordinance and to whom the City Council owes its ultimate responsibility.
Let's hear it, Anaheim residents. What do you think? Should the City Council join those 63 California communities and adopt an ordinance to protect your right to work in an environment free from other people's smoke or should it take the advice of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce and do nothing?
MERRILL J. MATCHETT
Matchett is president of the Anaheim Orange County Affiliate, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights.