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Monday, January 13, 2003



[ OUR OPINION ]

Better not to cloud
point of smoking ban


THE ISSUE

The University of Hawaii has banned smoking in many areas on campus.


PEER pressure appears to be the method of enforcing a laudable new ban on smoking throughout much of the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus. While ostensibly aimed at reducing secondhand smoke, the policy's most beneficial purpose should be the discouragement of young people taking up the dangerous habit or the encouragement that they quit smoking in their younger years. It is a good policy, but the reason given seems somewhat disingenuous.

UH officials say no smoker will be cited for violating the rules. Instead, the policy will be "enforced by the social norm and culture of the campus," according to Hye-ryeon Lee, an assistant speech professor and member of the Community Partnership for Health and Fresh Air.

Under the policy, "smoking is prohibited, please," inside university buildings, in building courtyards, breezeways and terraces, on outside stairways, ramps and outdoor dining areas; within 20 feet of building entrances, exits, air ducts, vents and windows of buildings lacking air-conditioning; within 50 feet of designated campus and public bus pick-up and drop-off points; within stadium and arena gates; and just about anywhere else that the person in charge orders.

The stated purpose of the ban is to "improve the working and learning environment of the university and protect faculty, staff, students and visitors from secondhand smoke exposure" while on campus. The warning that secondhand smoke outdoors -- in the general area of a bus stop -- poses a health risk or educational deterrent is novel. It implies that the health of a person standing outdoors is threatened by smoke emanating from a cigarette 49 feet away.

The purpose should be stated as reminding people that anybody smart enough to be enrolled in, teaching at or having anything to do with college ought to have enough sense to avoid taking up cigarettes and becoming addicted.

Consistent with that unstated purpose is a ban on advertising and sales of tobacco products on all UH campuses and of tobacco groups from sponsoring campus activities or organizations. The real purpose, of course, is to make it hard for people to buy cigarettes and to lessen Big Tobacco's advertising and public relations effort.

"Hawaii is one of the healthiest places on Earth, and as a state we have been extremely forward-thinking in our commitment to public health," says UH President Evan Dobelle. A straight-thinking acknowledgment that the purpose of the new policy is to discourage smoking would add even more credibility.


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Screeners should be
allowed to unionize


THE ISSUE

The head of the federal Transportation Security Administration has blocked a union's effort to organize baggage screeners.


WHEN Congress debated the bill creating the Homeland Security Department, Democrats complained that President Bush was seeking to exempt workers from collective-bargaining agreements because of national security. The bill was enacted, but the debate continues, as airport screeners destined for the new department seek to form a union. If the organizing drive is successful, a collective-bargaining agreement could be written that takes national security situations into account.

Adm. James M. Loy, head of the Transportation Security Administration, has signed an order blocking attempts to unionize as many as 56,000 screeners. "Fighting terrorism demands a flexible work force that can rapidly respond to threats," Loy said. "That can mean changes in work assignments and other conditions of employment that are not compatible with the duty to bargain with labor unions."

Labor unions have been excluded from various agencies, such as Defense and the Secret Service, but that exclusion was not part of the legislation creating the Homeland Security Department. In fact, one-fourth of the 177,000 employees moving into the new department from other agencies are union members, and Tom Ridge, President Bush's nominee for homeland security secretary, has pledged to work with them. Congress gave the president broad authority to set pay, hiring and working conditions for the department.

Bobby L. Harnage Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees, vowed to contest Loy's order in court. Union officials say that screeners have complained about late paychecks, last-minute changes in work schedules and being required to work double shifts since airport checkpoints were unionized late last year. Those issues and areas such as pay and working conditions could be addressed in a labor agreement without jeopardizing national security under normal circumstances. In the event of a national emergency, the president could set aside many of those provisions.



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Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor 529-4768; mrovner@starbulletin.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762; lyoungoda@starbulletin.com

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748; mpoole@starbulletin.com
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533; jflanagan@starbulletin.com

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