October 11, 2009 in Idaho Voices

Cancer institute’s study finds unhealthy air in bars

By The Spokesman-Review
 

BOISE – Air quality in smoky Idaho bars is worse than smog, according to a study by a prestigious Buffalo, N.Y., cancer institute.

The Roswell Park Cancer Institute, working with the Coalition for a Healthy Idaho, found that fine-particulate air pollution in Boise bars that permit smoking is 36 times worse than outdoor pollution levels in the valley, and workers in the bars are exposed to four times the EPA’s standard for annual exposure.

Testers actually went into 19 bars and restaurants in Boise, Meridian and Garden City in May and June, operated air quality monitors, and recorded how many people were there and how many cigarettes were burning. “Sampling was discreet in order not to disturb the occupants’ normal behavior,” the study reports. Its conclusion: The secondhand smoke is a health threat to those who work in the bars.

“This study shows precisely why city councils in Idaho should implement comprehensive smoke-free ordinances covering all indoor workplaces and all workers,” said Shauneen Grange, campaign coordinator for Smokefree Idaho, a group working for such bans. “The study demonstrates conclusively that the smoke-free air law in Idaho is effectively protecting the health of workers and patrons from the health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke in restaurants, while those in smoking-permitted bars are still exposed to hazardous levels of air contaminants.”

Idaho law bans smoking in restaurants and, after lawmakers overrode a veto from Gov. Butch Otter, bowling alleys. But it doesn’t ban it in bars where no one under 21 is allowed in.

Twenty-seven states, including Washington, have anti-indoor smoking laws that include bars, the study said, as do nine Canadian provinces, hundreds of U.S. cities and counties, and “whole countries including Ireland, Scotland, Uruguay, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Italy, Spain, England and France.”

The Idaho sampling took place at 14 bars where smoking is permitted, one where the bar has chosen not to allow smoking, and four restaurants. The smoking-permitted bars were in the “hazardous” air quality range, while the other bar and the restaurants were down in the good-to-moderate range.

Craig branches out

Former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig initially said his new consulting firm, New West Strategies, likely would focus on energy issues, but Craig’s firm was hired last week by Cassia and Minidoka counties to help Cassia County lobby for a $300 million federal prison.

The Twin Falls Times-News reported that both counties’ commissioners agreed to pay Craig’s firm a monthly fee of $5,000 plus a $500 monthly travel budget. The city of Burley also plans to chip in for the contract.

Craig, who retired from the Senate amid scandal after he was cited in a Minneapolis airport men’s room sex sting, formed the consulting firm this year with Michael Ware, his former chief of staff.

New West Strategies’ Web site says, “We provide strategic advice, guidance, and advocacy to companies, trade associations, and other clients on a wide range of legislative and regulatory issues.”

Though Craig, as a former senator, is banned from lobbying for two years after leaving office, his associates can lobby. His firm’s Web site, which repeatedly refers to Craig as “Senator Larry E. Craig,” touts his service in the Senate and House, his former committee assignments, and his “reputation as a stalwart against environmental extremism.”

Barnes wins book award

Kim Barnes, author and University of Idaho professor of creative writing, has been awarded the PEN USA award for fiction for her second novel, “A Country Called Home.” That’s a prestigious award, putting her in the company of such other winners this year as creative nonfiction winner Steve Lopez, who won for “The Soloist,” now a hit movie; and Dustin Lance Black, whose screenplay for “Milk” won the screenplay category.

But that’s not the most interesting thing about Barnes’ award; this is: It’s for a book that she wrote while teaching her U of I students about writing, “with my students creating their own stories and essays right along beside me,” Barnes said. “As I submitted ‘A Country Called Home’ for publication, I shared with my fiction students the process of writing, revising and submitting a novel. I showed them every agent comment, good and bad, and each editorial rejection and, luckily, acceptance. Finally, we’re all in this together.”

Barnes was a finalist for the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for her memoir “In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country,” and won the 2001 Pushcart Prize for her essay, “The Ashes of August.” Her first novel, published in 2003, was “Finding Caruso.” She’s now at work on her third.


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