Legislators must allow Alabama clean air

There’s about a week left and a very important proposal is in danger of being overlooked by the Alabama Legislature.

It’s already been overlooked at least once, when lawmakers allowed it to die last year in an attempt to block another measure from passing.

That’s the way it happens so often &045; the really important measures disappear in the midst of all the other mess.

This proposal, which will create a statewide smoking policy, is much needed.

The Alabama Clean Indoor Air Act makes smoking off limits in most public places, and frankly, it’s about time.

Those of us who do not smoke have long been exposed to the nasty-smelling odor and poisons which make breathing difficult.

Let’s face it, restaurants which offer a choice between smoking and non-smoking are a joke.

And for residents who already suffer breathing difficulties, these public places, always drenched in a thick layer of smoke, are prohibitive.

Alabama has a responsibility to protect its citizens from secondhand smoke, which clearly causes health problems &045; at least as much as it can.

The ban on smoking is limited to designated areas in stores, banks, malls and other enclosed public places.

Exceptions built into the measure would include limousines, bars, tobacco stores and hotel and motel rooms reserved for smokers. And, of course, private residences or vehicles are not included either.

According to the American Lung Association, every other state in the United States has already restricted smoking in public places.

Once again, Alabama is the final hold-out.

The Lung Association reports in its State of the Air 2001 that more than 1,900 of Shelby County’s children suffer from pediatric asthma.

More than 3,500 adults in the county suffer from adult asthma; more than 4,700 adults suffer from adult chronic bronchitis; and more than 1,500 suffer from emphysema.

It’s important that our legislators provide us this statewide smoking policy. Let’s hope they don’t let this opportunity pass.

Other proposals which will probably be discussed during the final days of the session include:

n the education and general fund budgets for the state;

n across-the-board raises of 3 percent for 35,000 state employees and 85,000 teachers and other workers at public schools and two-year colleges;

n restrictions on the driving privileges of 16-year-olds and some 17-year-olds (no driving between midnight and 6 a.m., with exceptions for work);

n the requirement of the state to license and regulate private security guards and establish training regulations for them;

n allowing Alabama to execute inmates by lethal injection instead of only the electric chair;

n banning human cloning research at Alabama universities; and

n voter identification legislation, including the requirement of a driver’s license or other ID before voting and restoring the right to vote to felons.

This legislative session is sure to have an interesting ending.

Some interesting proposals which have already passed include making the Alabama Board of Funeral Services regulate and license crematories, banning boaters from dumping untreated sewage into the state’s lakes and rivers and requiring the state insurance commissioner to regulate, for the first time, the sale of pre-need funeral and crematory services