to justify smoking ban
The issue: The City Council will consider
a law barring smoking in restaurants.
CITY COUNCILMAN John Henry Felix has introduced a bill that would prohibit smoking in Oahu restaurants, but his proposal should not be considered seriously. While tobacco smoke is annoying to many restaurant employees and patrons, the evidence that it causes health risk is doubtful. Hawaii's restaurants should continue providing smoking and nonsmoking sections but should not be subject to a total ban.
Felix maintains that restaurants opposed to a ban lack concern for their employees. He is supported by a public relations campaign by the state Department of Health, citing a California study concluding that waitresses have a higher rate of lung cancer and heart disease than women in other professions. The study is suspect because it does not seem to consider variables such as other aspects of the subjects' lifestyles.
Of greater significance are recent studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. One study involving 173 Knoxville area restaurant and tavern employees wearing air-sampling pumps indicated smoke content to be far below the level that is considered health-risking. A separate study involving 16 U.S. cities and 1,500 employees showed levels at even lower levels.
"It is said that a restaurant worker inhales the equivalent of one to four packs of cigarettes a day," Felix says, but serious research does not support such a whimsical assertion. His opposition to being exposed to cigarette smoke is understandable and shared by many who assume that air they regard as irritable must be unhealthy. Requiring restaurants to succumb to that comfort level should be based on more than junk science.
Proponents of a smoking ban assert that restaurants would not suffer from decreased business. Indeed, reports from parts of California indicate that restaurants are surviving nicely in a smoke-free environment. That is not the report from British Columbia, where, in the three months that it took for such a ban to be declared unconstitutional, eight businesses were forced to close and 724 jobs were lost because of the ban's repercussions.
Hawaii restaurateurs are justifiably concerned about the reaction to a ban by tourists from Asia, where smoking lacks the stigma that it has acquired in the United States. "What we're afraid will happen is we'll be running off our Asian visitors," says Patrick McCain, president of the Hawaii Restaurant Association.
Let the owners run their restaurants so long as they offer non-smoking areas and let the non-smoking customers and employees go someplace else if the restaurant does not meet their requirements. That drop in business would get the attention of the owners faster than government regulation.
and students score some
The issue: Facility improvement and
better test scores brighten the
troubled educational scene.
From the litter of teacher contract disputes and special education troubles strewn across Hawaii's educational landscape have emerged the welcome sights of improved public school facilities and achievements by high school students. While worrisome problems plague the schools, they should not overshadow these noteworthy matters.
The results of a standardized college entrance exam put students in Hawaii in the limelight last week. The 2,722 public and private school students scored slightly higher than the national averages in English, math, reading and science reasoning exams. Officials from the American College Testing program had no breakdown on private vs. public school students, but said a larger percentage of island students take college prep courses than in many places on the mainland. Students here do not do as well as their mainland counterparts on standardized tests, so the achievement was welcome news.
Also last week, an annual school fire code inspection rated 41 public schools facilities as perfect, 137 as very good and 116 schools as acceptable. None were given an unacceptable rating. Ten years before, 15 were unacceptable. School fire code violations have dropped from 137 during the 1999-2000 school year to 63 last year, following decreases from 1998-1999 when 201 were reported.
This good news, however, was tempered by 39 schools having failed fire inspections this year with 36 schools yet to make reports. The violations were minor, state officials said, with the biggest being that many facilities and classrooms need increased electrical power to handle computers and high-tech equipment.
It appears that improvements go first to schools in urban areas while rural facilities get lower priority. Honolulu had the highest percentage of schools passing the fire inspections while schools on the Big Island had the highest number of violations at 27. Rural schools deserve their fair share of funds to overcome this failing.
Another bright spot: The Board of Education announced that playground equipment will be installed at 39 schools by December and at 32 more by next March. Older equipment was removed three years ago because of new federal safety guidelines and the state did not have money for immediate replacements. However, the state Legislature has budgeted $4.5 million for the projects and children will soon have slides and swings again.
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