Saturday December 29, 2012

For the Tri-Town Health Department, Berkshire Tobacco Free Community Partnerships and other county organizations that fight the good fight against smoking, 2012 was a good year. For that reason, it was also a good year for county residents who were less exposed to the dangerous chemicals unleashed by smoking.

The victories in this campaign, as described by John Sakata in the Dec. 28 Eagle, were many and significant. Among other successes, the Tri-Town Health Department, which works with 12 communities on smoking policies, assisted Great Barrington and North Adams boards of health in curbing tobacco use. Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge and Pittsfield banned pharmacies from selling cigarettes. Berkshire Community College is exploring stricter smoking regulations that will ideally be enacted soon. Many private businesses are joining their public counterparts in establishing tougher anti-smoking rules to the benefit of customers and employees.

The old argument that these rules violate the rights of smokers is not heard much anymore because the right of non-smokers not to be exposed to carcinogens or the unpleasant taste and smell of secondhand smoke is of far greater significance. The dangers of secondhand smoke are many and proven.

The tide has turned against smoking for good reason -- prominent among them is that it causes cancer, heart disease emphysema and other terrible diseases, the treatment for which dramatically increases health care costs. Smokers are urged to protect their health and their wallets, as heavily taxed cigarettes are expensive, and kick the habit, as many millions have done already. Help is out there, from Tri-Town, which has received a grant for this cause, and other local organizations.