Student accuses lawmakers of smoking-ban hypocrisy
A Lakewood High School student accused state lawmakers Monday of hypocrisy for banning smoking in all state buildings except the Capitol.
"It struck me as a little odd that the Legislature was writing themselves in an exception just so they can smoke," student body president Nathan Havey told members of the House Health, Environment, Welfare and Institutions Committee. "As leaders, you should be set ting the example."
Havey was one of nine witnesses who testified in favor of a bill sponsored by Rep. Sue Windels, DArvada, to ban smoking in the Capitol. After hearing the testimony, the committee voted 10-2 in favor of moving HB1039 to the House floor.
Rep. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broom field, and Rep. Lois Tochtrop, DWestminster, voted against the measure. Mitchell said that while he was not a smoker and viewed smoking as "slow-motion suicide," he also was "troubled by the puritanical crusade" against smokers.
Havey said Lakewood students who discussed the apparent incongruity concluded that legislators are "government. They don't have to obey."
"It gives the message of hypocrisy to anyone who comes here," he said.
Windels said the law passed six years ago prohibited smoking in all legislative buildings, but a subsection tacked onto it gave the Legislative Council, the research arm of the Legislature, authority to decide where smoking can occur in the Capitol. The Senate and House of Representatives also were given exclusive authority to decide if smoking would be allowed in their respective chambers and offices.
"It's a bit of an oxymoron," Windels said. Since the law was passed, the House banned smoking in its chambers, offices and committee rooms. But the Senate allows smoking in some offices and in areas around the chambers, Windels said. The Legislative Council also allows smoking in an unventilated cafeteria room and in the third-floor east wing.
Several witnesses testified to the dangers of breathing second-hand smoke. Dr. David Nelson, a cardiothoracic surgeon, said new studies show that second-hand smoke increases the risk of heart disease, lung cancer and pulmonary illnesses. He said people under 74 who are exposed to second-hand smoke are 82 percent more likely to suffer a stroke.
Windels underscored the arguments by citing a recent safety report that talked of the potential fire hazards at the Capitol and the lack of safety features, including inadequate exits and lack of automatic fire sprinklers.
"This is the wrong building to allow smoking," Windels said.