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Are mask mandates legal? Look to indoor smoking bans and consider workers’ rights

FastCompany: “Rules about wearing a COVID-19 mask in indoor workspaces are the same as smoking bans, an article in the latest American Journal of Preventative Medicine argues. Pushback against face coverings in places like stores and eateries is couched as an encroachment on personal liberties—or as concerns that facial coverings will alienate some customers, as evidenced by viral cellphone videos of irate individuals screaming at store employees. However, a trio of professors from Ohio State and Purdue universities says mask requirements actually are a workers’ rights issue. Failing to have these protection in place will “very likely be detrimental” to public health, especially frontline workers, so they call on federal, state and local governments to “take an active stance to promote mask wearing in workplaces.” Resistance to wearing masks is reminiscent of arguments made as smoking bans began cropping up across the United States years ago. The public-health problem then was subjecting workers, like restaurant waitstaff and travel-industry workers, to harmful tobacco smoke, while now the danger is in the respiratory droplets that carry COVID-19. What helped smoking bans gain acceptance was what experts call “denormalization”—when something evolves to be viewed as socially unacceptable…”

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