By Dave Woods

Globe Internet Editor

To smoke or not to smoke? That is the question.

It's one that many state Legislatures -17 so far - have answered, and that answer is no. The battle between smokers and non-smokers is raging and the front lines of this smoky skirmish are getting closer to home every day.

In Kansas, health officials have called for a ban on smoking in workplaces and public buildings where people regularly gather.

In Oklahoma, a smoking ban was implemented this spring that eliminated lighting up in most hotels, restaurants and bars.

Closer to home, local hospitals plan to hang up "no smoking" signs Sept. 1 restricting all employees, patients and visitors from using tobacco products on hospital property.

In a recent Globe story concerning the increasing pinch put on smokers by local and state government regulations, smokers made it clear they feel under siege. Immediately after posting the story online at www.joplinglobe.com the war of words was on, and neither side showed any sign of surrender.

Smokers feel snuffed out

"I try to avoid places that allow smoking. I try to go to restaurants that do not allow smoking; however, there are still restaurants where you must walk through the smoking area to get to the non-smoking area. I have refused to sit at a table in the non-smoking section because the table next to it is in the smoking section. I don't hate smokers, I just hate the smell of tobacco smoke. If the entire world were tobacco-free, that'd be fine with me!"

- janie

"It is about time that more communities in Missouri enact smoking bans in public places. Maybe some smart business person will open up an exclusive private membership smoker's-only club. Most non-smokers would not be offended at being excluded from this private club."

- A Realist

"Whether a person smokes or not is nobody else's business, if you don't like smelling somebody else's cigarette smoke, stay out of the bars and the restaurants that have smoking sections. Will it ever end with some of you people? I think we already have enough government intrusion in our lives, next thing you know they will be back to banning beer, and God only knows what else - Stay home People!"

- Get a life!

"Too many whiners! If ya don't like the smoke, then walk away. We respect non-smokers by not smoking in the hospitals, but now they are crying about walking through some smoke to get in the hospital. Regardless of any law, I will continue to smoke anywhere I want to."

- Rick

I understand, but don't agree

"I do understand the whole 'ban smoking' idea. However, I don't agree with it. Smokers should have just as much right as the non-smokers. I do smoke and try to be respectful of those I am around. There is a great article in this month's Reader's Digest about a 33- year-old woman who has lung cancer and never had one cigarette in her life. There is the headline story about Dana Reeves and her death due to lung cancer. She never smoked. We all have carcinogen cells in our bodies. No one knows when, or if, they will activate. Or the other people who have absolutely no risk factors but who get some type of cancer. It is the duty of the Surgeon General to say what he feels is the best advice. However, that is all it should be advice. Not a way to let 'big brother' run out lives."

- Gail

"As an asthmatic non-smoker, I do enjoy smoke-free environments, but as a matter of principle I believe the decision as to whether or not a business should be smoke-free is entirely up to the business owner. I don't agree that smoking bans violate smokers' rights - there's no such thing. But it does violate the property or business owner's right to choose the type of environment he thinks will best serve his customers. It's his property, it's his right to designate it as smoke-free or not."

- Daniel Boyer

"We all know smoking is bad for you, but what irks me as a smoker is that all cancers and sickness in non-smokers is being blamed on second-hand smoke and that's a bunch of baloney. Our environment is polluted in so many ways beyond smoking; it's absolutely laughable to suggest that second-hand smoke is the sole culprit. Will the Surgeon General issue a warning about what big corporations are pumping into our air and waterways? What about all of our cars? Come on people! Wake up!"

- KB

Former smoker chimes in

"Let me start off by saying, I quit smoking 35 years ago. However I have to wonder, if smoking is so bad for a person, and second-hand smoke is worse, then how come smoking isn't prohibited completely? Could it be because the state likes the tax money?"

- Mel

"Public smoking bans should be enacted, but with the (tobacco) connections our current governor has, it is unlikely to happen here in Missouri."

- Steve

"I think parents who smoke while pregnant and around their children should be locked away for child abuse. You are subjecting your children to cancer! Do you wish they would die?"

- AR

"Poor babies! How dare we tell them they can't give us cancer!"

- Anonymous

"And so the stories of "I knew a person who knew a person ... who lived to be 100 living around a smoker the entire time. ..." So what if one person lived to be 100 around a smoker? If one person dies because of second-hand smoke there should be a ban. And we know there have been deaths because of smoking."

- AR

"To Mr. AR - this isn't a 'I know a person that knows a person.' This is my own grandmother and if you would like to meet her let me know. There are more and more people living to be 100 and over that have either smoked or lived with heavy smokers most of their lives. My grandmothers are both proof of that."

- Larry

"When you smokers figure out a way to keep your smoke inside your lungs rather than exposing others through exhaling then you might have some rights. Until then you have no right to expose anyone to the health hazard. If you disagree and feel that you have the right to blow smoke into my face then I should have the right to fart into your face."

- Ray

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