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Good News – Freedome from Smoke is a Right in New Jersey

Had enough bad news lately? How about celebrating some good news concerning New Jersey’s ban on smoking in public places.

There might be a national obsession with negativity, but I still believe the new smoke-free law, effective Saturday, April 15th, is well worth celebrating, primarily because it will save thousands of lives.

In fact, there’s no doubt in my mind that the new law will turn out to be most important piece of legislation I ever sponsor.

Tell your friends that by next Saturday, the 15th of April, smokers won’t be able to legally ‘light ‘em up if they’ve got ‘em’ in restaurants, diners, bars or taverns, or most any other public place.

The freedom to blow second-hand smoke into the nostrils of those nearby will be no more.

Lighting up in a diner booth could cost an offender $250 the first time, $500 the second time and up to a $1,000 after that.

Bellying up to a bar with a lit butt will expose smokers to the same financial penalties.

But, as they might say in the movies, it’s not really about the money – it’s about the health.

It’s about the health of children as they set out on lives, hopefully independent of the chains of nicotine addiction.

It’s about the health of workers who are forced by circumstances beyond their control to be near smokers.

And, yes, it’s also about the health of smokers, themselves, who may be discomforted by the impositions of the new law to take the needed steps to quit puffing forever.

That smokers – until now – held the upper hand when it came to lighting up in public places cannot be challenged. It seems there was a type of cowboy mentality in place which equated smoking with freedom.

Smoking used to be considered cool. After all, the stars all smoked in the movies.

But over time, a quiet revolution changed our culture. Though smokers kept dying of lung cancer, clean-air advocates started speaking up. The American Cancer Society and the Heart Association began spoke out forcefully with the facts about smoking.

Even that advertising icon, The Marlboro Man, condemned himself for luring young people into smoking the cigarettes he promoted in rugged country poses.

The distance traveled in the fight for clean air can be measured best in terms of changing workplace standards that once welcomed all smokers, all the time. Now, smoking at work is virtually unheard of.

So, excuse me, for calling for a celebration – for the work of all the unsung heroes and heroines who took up the crusade against smoking, perhaps after losing a loved one to cancer.

Some of our older senior citizens today, who grew up with smoking as the norm, are probably still kicking because they “quit the habit” years ago. But they can all tell us of their late friends who didn’t – or couldn’t.

So if April 15th used to be a day of doldrums as a federal deadline for filing income taxes, it’s time to change all that.

Break down and buy a round and toast to the health of your favorite waitress or bartender who no longer labors long hours in unhealthy smoke-filled rooms.

And while you’re at it, since my father was a dry cleaner himself, find some extra clothes in the closet to bring to your local cleaners who suddenly won’t have customers bringing in their usual haul of smoke-filled sweaters and suits.

Yes, figure out some way to celebrate the day because ‘going out’ just got a whole lot healthier for you and your family.