The Oregonian editorial board has shown good sense in the last week and argued for common sense and against politically correct activists.
On May 9, the editors argued against a ban on smoking in public parks.
What goes unsaid, however, is that smokers are at the center of an ethical public health dilemma, and their targeting places government on a slippery slope: Many public officials simply do not like the idea of smoking and so regulate to that ideal. In so doing, they undermine democracy and personal liberty. More narrowly, they make a joke of health policymakers whose decisions require evidence and the public's trust.Oregonian editors backed this up on May 13 with an editorial against banning smoking in public parks targeted specifically at stopping littering.
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. . . "The evidence of harm to nonsmokers on the beach or in a park from someone smoking is virtually non-existent." So why, then, are governments ban-happy? [Professor Ronald] Bayer explained in its own scholarly paper: "We conclude that the impetus is the imperative to denormalize smoking as part of a broader public health campaign to reduce tobacco-related illness and death."
Which, in the instance of a ban in public parks, would reduce public assets to instruments of propaganda.
Because unjustified intolerance deserves a response whenever it surfaces, we write occasionally about proposed smoking bans in outdoor areas, where secondhand smoke isn't going to hurt anyone. Inevitably, somebody points out – correctly – that a lot of smokers are litterbugs. For this reason, the thinking goes, smokers don't deserve the privilege of indulging their habit in some places.Erik Lukens, editorial/commentary editor, even said in a comment he liked the smell of tobacco smoke. Gasp!
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In any case, plenty of those who bring food and drinks into the South Park Blocks, like those who bring cigarettes, throw their garbage on the ground. Is this a reason to ban eating in public parks? No more than the loss of dog toys is a reason to ban pets or the presence of discarded clothing is a reason to mandate nudity.
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Third, if people are fed up with littering in parks – and they should be – perhaps they ought to push for better littering enforcement. Picking on one group of politically unpopular people, particularly given limitations on enforcement, would be more vindictive than productive.
Not a smoker. This is the first time, by the way, I've read a defense of smoking bans in open air venues (or anywhere, really) based upon a smoker's odor. As for how I like following a smoker on a sidewalk, I'm absolutely fine with it. I like the smell of tobacco smoke, and I know it poses no threat in the open air to anyone but the smoker himself or herself.I'm not a smoker either and have family members who are allergic to tobacco smoke. Still, I have a congenital allergy to people who want to control other people's lives just because they don't agree with their choices. If one does not like tobacco smoke (or free speech) and can easily move away and still do what one came to do a number of feet or yards away, that's part of the give and take of respecting people and their differences. So, good for the Oregonian!
A third editorial, published today sticks up the sale of state forest land to timber companies in the face of environmental group opposition.
The Elliott State Forest, covering about 90,000 acres in the Coast Range near Coos Bay, provides a large and dependable stream of cash for the Common School Fund, which in turn sends millions of dollars to the state's public schools every year. Well, that's the theory, anyway. In reality, timber harvests have been constrained so severely by environmental litigation and Endangered Species Act restrictions that the Elliott cost the Common School Fund about $3 million in 2013.The Oregonian editors not only come out for the state not losing money, sustaining timber jobs and more tax revenue, but indirectly tweak "conservation interests" like the Audubon Society and Cascadia Wildlands for not putting their money where their mouth is and taking up a collection to buy the land themselves.
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"That's something that's not sustainable," says [Department of State Lands spokeswoman Julie] Curtis of the red ink, noting that the State Land Board "is concerned about it because they're the trustees" of the Common School Fund. Those who consider selling off state land an extreme response should consider the composition of the State Land Board, which made the call. Gov. John Kitzhaber, state Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Kate Brown are not the Clear-cut Club. They're responding reasonably to an extreme situation brought about by federal policymakers and by litigious environmental groups.
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If timber companies want to buy the property with the expectation of logging it, that's fine. Their management will sustain jobs and provide tax revenue, and the new owners will be required to follow state and federal laws protecting threatened species.
It's also fine if bits and pieces of the Elliot are snapped up by conservation interests who don't want to touch a twig.
Who would have thought to read such good sense on the Oregonian editorial page in the face of politically correct activism and loud opposition by powerful environmentalist lobbies like the Audubon Society?