Utah County residents added their support Thursday night to a proposal that would end smoking on commercial flights originating or ending in Utah, saying it's about time the rights of non-smokers are taken seriously.
The comments were made at Utah Valley Community College during the last of three public hearings held this week by the Utah Air Travel Commission. The group has been commissioned to draft resolutions based on hearing comments.Several Utah politicians have said the recent Federal Aviation Administration smoking ban on commercial flights of less than two hours is not enough to protect non-smokers from involuntary smoking. Gov. Norm Bangerter has asked the Utah attorney general's office to determine the legality of banning smoking on all flights in or out of Utah.
Several of the 45 people at the hearing Thursday applauded the move, including pathologist Gordon Short. He said the evidence of tobacco's harmful effects is so strong that if cigarettes were being introduced on the market today they never would receive Federal Drug Administration approval.
Short and others at the hearing lambasted a statement prepared by Guy Oldaker, a senior research chemist for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. In the statement, Oldaker said tobacco smoke levels in aircraft should not be an environmental concern.
"Empirical evidence is lacking in quantity and quality for a scientific evaluation of the quality of airliner cabin air or of the probable health effects of short or long exposure to it," the statement says.
Short said smokers have no right to pollute the air non-smokers share with them. Smoking makes a mockery of first-class airline seats because non-smoking sections often are adjacent to smoking sections, he said. In addition, the cost of installing and maintaining air-filtration systems is passed onto all passengers.
"They are peddling poison and calling it pleasure," Short said of U.S. tobacco companies. "Tobacco, in my estimation, is an evil empire."
Resident William Strong suggested the installation of smoking booths on airplanes if smoking can't be banned altogether from flights. He said he is tired of seeing the tobacco industry receive yearly governmental subsidies.
"We play kind of a crazy game," he said, adding that the tobacco companies care only for profits, not people. "They are not interested in the public, contrary to what their scientists and advertisers may say."
Pat Tucker, tobacco prevention specialist for the Utah County Health Department, said tobacco smoke detrimentally affects how people feel. "I would love to see a ban," she told commission members Monte Yeager and Glade Sowards.
Bus driver Bill Greenhalgh said the ban should be extended to chartered buses. He said smokers often turn his bus into a "pig truck."
He said people have a right both to smoke and play Russian roulette, but "let them do it someplace where they can clean it up and where they can breath it."