Saturday, March 7, 2009

And Two Men To Admire

Elliot Schewel and me (right), Brandon Bell >

Virginia has new smoking rules for restaurants--enabling those of us who don't like to breathe other people's addictions to have more choices on where to eat (we'll address healthy food choices another time--and lost in all this are two heroes of the battle: former Sen. Brandon Bell of and former Sen. Elliot Schewel of Lynchburg, my friend and one of my heroes.

Brandon, who represented the 22nd District (Roanoke, Botetourt, etc.), bravely proposed and stood by several tobacco-related bills and generally saw them killed in House committees (where, as we've mentioned, the lives of Virginia citizens are far less important than those of political contributors). He was defeated in the most recent Republican primary in his district by Ralph Smith, one of the lightest of intellectual lightweights in all of Virginia. Elliot fought the tobacco fight for years before finally retiring. His efforts never had a chance because of the heft of the tobacco lobby. Brandon saw a light in that tunnel and headed for it.

(Let me mention as an aside that Brandon, an effective moderate, is generally thought to have lost his seat to the Christian Right's Smith because he pissed off Salem's Morgan Griffith, the majority leader in the House, by not opposing everything any Democrat proposed. Word is that Griffith saw to it that the tobacco bill was killed in order to make Brandon look bad. Politics before public health; that's the cry.)

Both Elliot and Brandon have my respect and admiration.

It appears that the four candidates for governor (three Democrats and the presumed Republican nominee Bob McDonald) have not expressed any interest in intensifying the anti-tobacco legislation (including raising the tax from 30 cents to 60 cents a pack) and so it looks like we have to accept what we have for a while. I suspect, however, that some ambitious young hotshot will take up the mantle of smoking in the presence of children soon--since children seem to be a lightning rod for legislation--and propose that the act become a felony. Fact is, we might get a court ruling first: child abuse is a felony, smoking around children is child abuse. That was easy.

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