Smoke Screen

September 18, 2006
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The joke used to be that FORD stood for Found On Road Dead.

Now isn’t the time to laugh.

But the struggling automaker has at least one ally in the legislature.

Here’s the take from Senate Majority Leader KenSikkema, R-Wyoming, following Friday’s Ford Motor Co. announcement that includes drastic job cuts, accelerated plant closings and a new production strategy.

“As the news spreads about Ford’s bold initiatives and the effect they could have on Michigan’s economy, we must not focus on the past but rather target our sights on the future. Ford and its industry are facing a new economy and a new global marketplace. The automotive industry is reinventing itself to survive, and so must Michigan. The days of big manufacturers, big labor, and big government thriving in a big economy are ending. Now is the time for leaders to step forward and make bold decisions. We already have a talented work force and a tremendous wealth of entrepreneurial spirit in this state. What we need now is a government that is flexible and responsive and leaders who are decisive and resolute. What we need is a new Michigan that not only acknowledges the new economy, but embraces and thrives on the changes it has brought us. We must all find a new way of doing business because refusing to change can only lead to failure.”

In other words, government is going to help. Uh-oh.

**In July, Surgeon General Richard Carmona sounded the alarm of the public health hazard that is second-hand smoke. The evidence was “indisputable,” he said, that secondhand smoke causes tens of thousands of deaths each year.

His report, the first from the office since 1986, found that for nonsmoking adults, secondhand smoke raises the risk of heart disease by 25 percent to 30 percent and of cancer 20 percent to 30 percent. It accounted for 46,000 premature deaths from heart disease and 3,000 premature deaths from cancer.

There is no safe level of secondhand smoke, he found, adding in a televised press conference, “I am here to say the debate is over: the science is clear.”

Far be it to question science, or the federal report cobbled together from a decade of separate studies, but the Business Journal will wager that the debate is far from over.

R.J. Reynolds, the infamous cancer-stick maker, stated that secondhand smoke is unlikely to present any significant harm to otherwise healthy nonsmoking adults, and given the extensive restrictions on smoking, nonsmokers can already easily avoid it.

Although as many as 60 percent of nonsmokers show biological evidence of encountering secondhand smoke, the Centers for Disease Control noted in the Carmona report that the amount of cotinine — the form nicotine takes after being metabolized — in blood samples has decreased by 75 percent among adults over the last decade.

Statistics also widely show that occurrences of smoking-related illnesses are much more common in urban centers; where, yes, one is more likely to encounter secondhand smoke, but are also more likely to encounter the gaggle of other nasty stuff that makes people sick.

In downtown Grand Rapids, for instance, brownfield construction sites are continuously filtering contaminants into the air. Public and private transportation is kicking out carbon monoxide, as will any combustible engine in use. Air conditioners, the biodegradation of office furnishings, and the evaporation of deicer add to the mix.

Even industrial welding can be considered a dangerous carcinogen, pointed out City Commissioner Jim Jendrasiak during a discussion last week on Grand Rapids’ proposed ban of smoking in whatever places it can be banned — primarily the workplace.

In response, Mayor George Heartwell asked the pack-a-day Jendrasiak if the city should amend the ordinance to ban all of those things, too.

**Well, if we’re making a list of token things to ban, here are some other suggestions for the public health and welfare: Talking on cell phones while waiting in line or driving. Eating while talking. Riding bicycles on busy streets. Picking your nose and wiping it on office chairs or the City Hall elevator buttons. Reverse Mohawks. Spitting gum on sidewalks. Laying chairs and blankets out more than an hour before a parade, fireworks show or homecoming football game.

Just don’t ban booze.

A new study published by the Journal of Labor Research and Reason Foundation suggested that drinkers earn 10 percent to 14 percent more money at their jobs than nondrinkers. Men who drink socially, visiting a bar at least once a month, bring home an additional 7 percent in pay.

“Social drinking builds social capital,” said Edward Stringham, an economics professor at San JoseStateUniversity. “Social drinkers are out networking, building relationships, and adding contacts to their BlackBerrys that result in bigger paychecks.”

In general, men who drink earn 10 percent more than abstainers and women 14 percent more. Women who drink socially did not show any additional gains over those who do not.

**The Ottawa County Planning Commission is hosting a pair of planning boot camps this fall, part of its ongoing Excellence Through Training seminar program. The first installment, Planning Commission Basic Training, is this Thursday from , with the Zoning Board of Appeals session scheduled for Oct. 30.

Intended to train new commissioners and county board members, the public is welcome and encouraged to attend the free event, hosted at the county’s Fillmore Street Complex.

**Also, don’t miss the CD release party for two-time Grand Rapids Magazine Best Band in Grand Rapids Mid-Life Crisis this Friday at The Intersection.

Previously known as a cover band, “It’s All Good” is the first full-length collection of original music from the group, which includes a doctor, lawyer, banker, secretary, plastics engineer, kitchen designer and Polish butcher.    

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