The Range

Kicking Butts

Surgeon General Richard Carmona declared *cough-cough* last week that secondhand smoke *hack* posed a serious *huh-huh-huwkullll p-thui!* health hazard.

"I am grateful to ... be able to say unequivocally that the debate is over," Carmona told the press as he released a hefty report titled "The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke." "The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults."

The federal report details the dangers of secondhand smoke, even in small quantities. It also notes that banning smoking in enclosed places is the only way to effectively reduce health risks.

As it happens, Arizona voters may have the chance to do just that in November. Smoke-Free Arizona, a political group backed by the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, has already turned in roughly 188,000 signatures to put a proposition on the ballot to ban smoking in all enclosed public spaces, including restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, arenas and offices. The initiative would also increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 2 cents to fund enforcement and education programs.

The group needed 122,612 to qualify for the ballot. More info:

A separate initiative, the Arizona Non-Smoker Protection Act, would establish less-restrictive bans on smoking in public places while preventing local governments from creating local regulations. The petition drive--spoiler warning!--has been financed by $193,000 from RJ Reynolds. Supporters have until July 6 to deliver their signatures.

Elsewhere on the beat-the-smokers beat: Backers of an initiative that would increase cigarette taxes to fund programs for kids 5 and younger turned in more than 200,000 signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office last week, which means that voters will likely decide in November whether smokers should pay for preschool care and dental screenings in Arizona. The proposition would hike cigarette taxes by 80 cents a pack to raise an estimated $150 million annually. More info:

Showing More Initiative

Feelin' lucky, punk? You may be a million-dollar winner if you vote! The Arizona Secretary of State's Office determined the AZ Voter Reward Act, which would reward one fortunate voter with a million bucks every two years, has enough signatures to make the November ballot. Political activist Mark Osterloh, who has previously been involved with initiatives regarding health care and publicly financed elections, says the proposition would increase voter turnout. He also makes the leap of logic that those money-hungry voters will pay more attention to politics if they're voting.

Meanwhile, backers of an initiative to reform the state trust land system turned in 280,000 signatures to put their proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot. More info:


Who loves downtown revitalization? The Tucson City Council loves downtown revitalization! The council unanimously approved plans for Presidio Towers, a 81-unit condo complex on the southern end of the historic El Presidio Neighborhood. Council members rejected arguments from some El Presidio residents that the seven-story building didn't fit with the character of the neighborhood.

Road Shows

Showing obvious disrespect for the English language, officials at the Governor's Office of Highway Safety launched Pasa las Llaves, or Pass the Keys, an effort aimed at discouraging Hispanics from driving drunk.

Sean Hammond of the Governor's Office of Highway noted that in 2003, nearly half of the U.S. fatal traffic accidents in which Hispanics were killed were alcohol-related.

In additional to educational outreach in the Hispanic community, the $186,000 campaign will include additional DUI patrols and law-enforcement efforts to round up drunk drivers of all ethnic groups who have had their licenses suspended or revoked.

The Napolitano administration has also launched Don't Trash AZ, an anti-littering campaign along the state's highways.

"It's just sad that as we drive along our freeways and streets, we see soda cans, napkins, cigarette butts, paper, coffee cups, even large boxes and plastic buckets," Napolitano press-released. "This is more than an eyesore; litter is expensive to clean up and makes for very dangerous driving conditions."

Officials are launching a hotline to report people who throw trash from their cars. Offenders will get stern letters in the mail.

Make a Brand-New Start of It

Start spreading the news! Jet Blue announced it would begin nonstop flights between Tucson and New York City beginning Sept. 28. Passengers can enjoy DirectTV, leather seating, spa treatments and a fine selection of low-priced wines. It's just like Battlestar Galactica night at the midtown bureau! If you're traveling before Oct. 31, one-way tickets are available for a mere $129 if purchased before July 18.
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