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Published: Tuesday, 5/11/2004

Kids and second-hand smoke

WE'VE got to hand it to a group of Findlay eighth-graders who want to help clear the indoor air in that Hancock County community by supporting a public smoking ban under consideration by city elders.

Students in Cindy Habegger's class at Glenwood Middle School conducted a survey of residents which they say points favorably to a limited smoking ban, which would end tobacco use in restaurants but not in bars or bowling establishments.

Although they're way too young to vote, the students will be in Findlay city council chambers tonight at 6:45 to present the results of that survey and other research they conducted to the first of two public forums on the smoking ban.

This is a valuable exercise in civic activism, and Ms. Habegger is to be commended as a teacher for bringing to life a practical learning experience. The first lesson: The kids have the right idea but Findlay adults need to carry their proposal a step further to meaningfully rid the city of harmful second-hand smoke.

We would encourage Findlay to go all the way with a comprehensive ordinance like the one adopted in Toledo, which bans indoor smoking in virtually all public places, with the exception of very small taverns.

It's not surprising that Ms. Habegger's students would encounter some criticism of their efforts. Since most people don't smoke, much of the negative feedback they're hearing comes from the diehard minority of residents who do.

In addition to defending their research, the students are learning the importance of standing up for a just cause, even if others don't agree.

After all, second-hand smoke often wreaks the worst health havoc on children. According to health experts, 15,000 children are hospitalized each year from its effects, with 26,000 new cases of asthma and as many as 300,000 lung infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

What must be remembered in Findlay, and in the growing number of municipalities considering smoking regulations, is that a ban is intended to protect the health of the majority of men, women, and children who don't smoke, not those who do.

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