A Rape in Sacramento : Anti-smoking bill is ravaged by amendments backed by the tobacco lobby

The tobacco industry, working through some of its chums in the Legislature, had just a few modest amendments it wanted added to a bill by Assemblyman Terry B. Friedman (D-Brentwood) to ban smoking in almost all indoor workplaces.

For openers, it favored a provision to forbid local governments from adopting anti-smoking laws stronger than those passed by the Legislature. That preemption would concentrate all legal controls over smoking in Sacramento, where the tobacco industry's big bucks can most easily buy favors, while killing scores of good, strong health-protecting municipal bans on smoking, including one in Los Angeles. A second change would let restaurants allow smoking in 25% of their space for at least two years while Cal/OSHA, which is supposed to concern itself with protecting the health and safety of workers, tried to figure out what standard to adopt to protect nonsmokers, restaurant employees and customers alike. Both amendments passed the Senate Judiciary Committee--we'll tell you who voted for them below--leading the lobbyist for the American Lung Assn. to remark, not inaccurately, that "this bill has just been raped."

The Friedman bill--AB 13--is not just another idea for legislation about whose fate most Californians can afford to be indifferent. It addresses, quite literally, issues of life and death.

To review the basics: Smoking causes cancer. It is a major contributor to heart disease and strokes. It kills close to half a million American smokers year in and year out. It kills thousands of others who have never smoked by exposing them to the carcinogens and toxins produced by people who do. Last month the Journal of the American Medical Assn. reported that secondhand smoke can affect fetuses. These are not obscure medical facts; all have been widely reported. They are known to the Legislature. Only the willfully obtuse or the cynically venal would ignore them.

Speaking of which, it is time to call the roll of supporters of the two destructive amendments added to AB 13. Sens. Charles M. Calderon (D-Whittier) and Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) were sponsors of the amendments and each voted for both. On the state preemption provision they were joined by Bill Lockyer (R-Hayward) and Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley). On restaurant smoking, they had help from Robert Presley (D-Riverside), Milton Marks (D-San Francisco), Rob Hurtt (R-Garden Grove) and Wright. These are public officials with whom we often agree, but on this one they all ought to be ashamed of themselves. As it happens, Torres, Presley and Wright are candidates for statewide offices this year. At every campaign stop citizens should ask them to explain their appalling vote.

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