I attended a hearing of the Kansas State House Health and Human Services Committee on Feb. 10. It was clear that the committee chairman was not in favor of state laws restricting smoking in public places. On the other hand, she asked many questions to those who made significant statements as to the severity of risk and lethal outcomes of secondhand smoke. This made me think she may embrace a state law which would be effective and without exemptions for the public health and fair to businesses. It's difficult for me to understand why this chairman would have put forth HB 2642 for discussion since she is on record for not wanting a state law. This was answered by those testifying in favor of HB 2642 including groups closely associated with tobacco interests who pointed out that HB 2642 would leave things status quo and pre-empt now and for the future smaller governments (cities) from legislation in their communities that would be effective.
I was impressed that we had four or more from Manhattan to this session although only one was able to speak. Our own mayor was there to support a statewide law without exemptions and was not given time to speak. There was limited time, and one hour was spent on this supporting HB 2642, 15 minutes "neutral" and 35 minutes for those of us who were opposed. The Manhattan Chamber of Commerce firmly supports a statewide law which includes restriction of secondhand smoke in all public places without exemptions. The Kansas Medical Society, the Kansas Academy of Family Practice and the Kansas Chapter of the American College of Physicians all support this concept. Obviously, HB 2642 would not accomplish this and would threaten the will of the Manhattan community of continuing to have its ordinance. None of these organizations wants HB 2642. This represents most primary care physicians in Kansas, and the people of Manhattan, both business owners and consumers and workers. It is clear what the will of the people is on this subject regardless of political party inclinations.
With all of this I feel that this committee and especially the chairman have, as was stated, a concern for the well-being of the people and that with sufficient input from enough citizens and honest researchers will be convinced to bring a law forth this year which will accomplish what Manhattan and other communities have worked for, which is a statewide restriction of smoking in all public places and places of employment.
I invite all who voted for a local comprehensive ordinance or would support a comprehensive state law to write to the Health and Human Services Committee. The chairman is Brenda Landwehr and her e-mail is Brenda.Landwehr@house.ks.gov. The address is Capitol Office Room: 151-S. Phone (785) 296-7683.
Please contact your local representatives and ask them to reject HB 2642 which would pre-empt so many communities with fair and comprehensive local legislation. Ask them to vote for a law that would be comprehensive and effective for the public health of the people and fair to all businesses.
DR. JAMES DIXON GARDNER,