Another View -- David Gottesman: Don't bring smoking back to NH restaurants
By DAVID GOTTESMAN
In 2007, the New Hampshire Legislature passed a law that prohibited smoking in restaurants. It was a law that 79 percent of the New Hampshire public thought was a good idea. As the prime sponsor of that legislation while I was in the Senate, I was proud to have led the way, and appreciated the efforts of so many who had tried in the past, but were unable to get this law over the finish line.
Then-Gov. John Lynch signed the bill into law. Those who feared it would be the end of their restaurants found that not only was it not a detriment to their businesses, but actually it enhanced the experience of dining out for so many who lived in New Hampshire or came here to enjoy our hospitality. Why on earth would we change that law now?
House Bill 279 has been filed by state Rep. Robert Hull of Grafton and Rep. Lino Avellani of Sanbornville. This bill would allow smoking in public conveyances, such as airplanes, trains, boats, vans or taxis, and in grocery stores, restaurants and cocktail lounges. This is truly absurd! This is like turning the clock back 10 years.
Remember the days of having to air out your clothing every time you either dined out or worked in a restaurant? Employees were at serious risk of exposure to second-hand smoke in these environments. That is what is being proposed; smoke-filled restaurants, cocktail lounges and smoking permitted on all methods of public transportation.
The American Cancer Society and Breathe New Hampshire were firmly in favor of the anti-smoking legislation when it passed. Restaurant owners came from all over the state to testify before us that this was something that they welcomed. Some had already led the way by making their restaurants non-smoking. Citizens came to the Legislature to testify that this was a wonderful way to keep our air safe and clean by prohibiting smoking in restaurants and cocktail lounges and by guarding our citizens, and especially employees of these establishments and children who were with their parents as customers, from the evils of second-hand smoke.
There was little credible objection at the time this legislation was considered, and we did hear the usual complaints that this was against the New Hampshire spirit of free enterprise. That simply was not true and did not hold water.
That philosophy was overcome by those carrying the message that the health of all of our citizens and patrons was most important. If it is important to you to be able to travel on a bus, train, plane or taxi without being exposed to second-hand smoke, and if it is important for you to be able to shop in a grocery store, or dine in a restaurant or cocktail lounge without being overwhelmed by smoke, then please let your legislators know now, before this bill gets much farther. The health and enjoyment of our citizens is worth protecting.
Please call or write your state representative or state senator today to let them know that you do not want House Bill 279 to pass. If you don’t get involved now, you will wonder in six months how this change came about.
David Gottesman, D-Nashua, represented District 12 in the state Senate from 2004 to 2008.