There has been a great deal of discussion about the place of the government to tell private business what to do in matters related to an owner’s business. In the current debate about an indoor smoking ordinance, the issue relates to the health of the people working and visiting a business — the public. Issues relating to the health of the public have been addressed for many years — so many years that most of us take these governmental actions for granted. When each measure was introduced, I am certain there was controversy from those who felt their “rights” had been infringed upon.
In today’s world, we all expect that the water we drink is clean and free of disease. We want our food to be safe from disease. We expect that our medicine will be safe. When an infectious disease strikes, we want a vaccine to protect our families. No one wants to eat in a dirty restaurant (particularly a dirty kitchen that is not seen by the public) or sleep in a dirty motel.
These are all public health events that tell private business how to act. The ability to be free from exposure to a substance we know is harmful is an opportunity that is taken for granted in many other parts of our state and nation. I often hear from visitors to our community that they are shocked smoking is allowed in restaurants and other public places. Just as we exect clean water, most people expect clean air.
Public health regulations for clean water, clean air and clean food have done more to extend the life expectancy in the United States than any single medical advance. Protecting the health of all is a long-standing American tradition — not a threat to our American rights.
JoAnn Martin, MSN, RN, Administrator, Pettis County, Health Center.