In Texas, 40 percent of all driving fatalities are alcohol related. So here’s an idea, let’s force people who drink closer to their cars, and here’s how you do it:This May, some Smith County voters will be asked to vote on what some think is an important issue-the legalization of “beer and wine sales for off-premise consumption.” In other words, parts of Tyler and the rest of the Justice of the Peace Precinct four would become partially “wet”. While this may seem to be one of the many ways Tyler is expanding, an event on June 1, 2008 may prove otherwise.In February 2008, the Tyler City Council unanimously voted that Tyler businesses would become “smoke-free.” No big deal. If someone is having a craving for an afternoon smoke, they can just go outside. If only it were so easy. A person also has to move at least 20 feet away from any doorway, ventilation system, or window that can be opened. Suddenly, that five minute smoke break becomes a little more like 10.While one vote led to a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants, another vote may lead to easier access to beer and wine in Tyler. Tyler is purposely restricting the rights of smokers in Tyler, while favoring those of drinkers.The health effects of both smoking and drinking are potentially detrimental. Most have seen the Surgeon General’s warning on cigarette packs. A similar warning is also printed on beer bottle labels. Yet, the Smoking Task Force in Tyler used a study the Surgeon General did on second-hand smoke as part of their basis for recommending Tyler businesses become smoke-free.Some people might say, “I don’t want to smell smoke while I’m eating or out with friends at a bar.” Well, some people may not want to share the road with the group of friends that leave the bar after a few rounds, either. While smokers are still permitted to smoke outside, they have to move at least 20 feet away from the entrance of the bar or restaurant. Basically, smokers can smoke outside, in their car, or at home, but not at restaurants, bars, or hotels. Drinkers can, if the law passes, drink at all of the above. Smoking and drinking are considered vices by some, so why is it fair to make one vice (smoking) harder, but make another vice (drinking) easier.According to cancer.org, over 400,000 people die each year from tobacco use. The statistic seems shocking when compared to the near 14,000 people who died in an alcohol related accident in 2006, according to cdc.gov. However, cancer.org states that “because cigarette smoking and tobacco use are acquired behaviors-activities that people choose to do-smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in our society.” Smoking is a choice. Dying from smoking is a choice. But being killed in an alcohol-related accident is not a choice. In 2006, cdc.gov found that over 150 child passengers, age 14 or younger, were killed in an alcohol-related crash where their driver had a blood alcohol content of over .08, and 45 children, age 14 or younger, were killed as innocent pedestrians or bicyclists. Those children didn’t choose to drive drunk, but they still paid the price for someone else’s choice.The fact that cigarette packs and beer bottles both have Surgeon General’s warnings, and both drunk driving and second-hand smoke are both unhealthy and dangerous, should prove that the city can’t ban one but embrace the other –either the city should accept or shun both.

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