To The Telegram:

While my legislative colleagues are entitled to their opinion, I must most strongly disagree with the labeling of the effects of secondhand smoke as "hogwash." That is absolutely wrong.

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Also wrong are those who wish to suggest these remarks are reflective of a Democratic position on the subject. Legislators are entitled to their views on the subject, but these views aren't mine. Furthermore, that opinion does not accurately reflect the established scientific evidence that proves that secondhand smoke is much more than an annoyance.

For decades, we have known that smoking can sicken and kill, but no longer can we argue against the evidence that secondhand smoke will harm those who are not smoking. It is a serious health hazard that can lead to disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking adults.

The 2006 U.S. Surgeon General's report offers indisputable evidence that nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.

Secondhand smoke is a known risk factor for lung cancer. Experts believe that secondhand smoke is to blame for roughly 3,000 deaths from lung cancer in adult nonsmokers each year in the United States. Further, it is estimated that some 35,000 nonsmokers die of smoking-related heart disease in the United States every year.

Clearing the air of tobacco is an important public health effort. While it is unfortunate that some tobacco companies still ignore reality, others are willing to accept the conclusions of public health experts that secondhand smoke is dangerous. As public officials, we must move forward and take action to clean the air with the same intensity as if we were confronted by a statewide outbreak of Legionnaires' disease.

I respect different views regarding the implementation of the clean air act and am willing to be flexible in supporting a compromise bill as long as the compromise reflects a genuine recognition of the inevitability of a uniform statewide smoking ban. We can compromise on the date of implementation, but we can't compromise on the reality that secondhand smoke is dangerous to the health of our citizens.

-- State Sen. Bob Jauch,

Poplar