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Our opinion: State must help with regulation costs

We can’t agree entirely with the stance Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, took recently on legislation tightening the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act to close loopholes involving casinos, private clubs and some bars.

House Bill 1675 will eliminate loopholes in those spaces, expand the definition of smoking to include e-cigarettes and “give all localities the ability to enact smoke-free ordinances that are more protective than state law,” according to a legislative memo. Rapp opposes the legislation, saying she has taken issue with legislative overreach into the lives of state residents and imposition of regulations on small businesses.

Typically, we would agree with Rapp. Government is far too involved in too much of our lives, in our opinion. But the societal costs of smoking – including the public health costs to the state to treat those who develop health problems related to smoking — make tightening up the Clean Indoor Act an action that is worth taking.

There is a logical flaw in Rapp’s argument that, “We have the right to choose what environments we step into.” She’s right. People do have that right, and we’re sure some do exercise that right by not going into certain businesses. But the converse is not true – neither the state and nor health insurance companies have the right to turn away health care treatment for those who develop smoking-related diseases. Health care facilities have to provide care even if people don’t have the ability to pay. That means there is a state interest in decreasing the number of smoking-related illnesses treated in the commonwealth each year.

We do agree with Rapp on one thing – restrictions on some private clubs and veterans clubs will put a financial crimp on organizations that sometimes can’t handle any loss of revenue. House Bill 1675 isn’t really governmental overreach, but it will have an impact that the state can and, in our view, should help mitigate.

If the state Legislature is going to impose additional regulations, there should be some state help to assist businesses and nonprofit organizations like VFWs or American Legion posts to meet the state regulation.

It doesn’t make much public health sense to exempt veterans clubs and private organizations from House Bill 1675, but the state should meet the clubs in the middle with help implementing its new regulation.

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