Niagara Gazette

Bob Confer

June 4, 2013

CONFER: Free air conditioning for smokers?

Niagara Gazette — It used to be that air conditioning was considered a luxury. It was one of modern living’s niceties that made for comfort during the hottest days of the year. You didn’t need it, but it was nice to have.

It seems, though, our benevolent state and federal governments have turned that thinking on its head. Somehow, over time, A/C has become a necessity, a basic human need.

Earlier this spring, continuing a practice that dates back to the 1980s, the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance sent applications to vendors throughout the state that would be interested in participating in the Cooling Assistance Component (CAC) of HEAP (the Home Energy Assistance Program).

Under the CAC, those companies would professionally install air conditioners or fans in the homes of low-income families having at least one family member who has a chronic or acute medical condition that is aggravated by exposure to extreme heat situations. The government will pay for the installation and equipment to a maximum of $800 per household. The program, which runs from April 1 through Aug. 30 (or until the funds are used up), is funded in part by $3 million in federal money.

To the working man, it’s frustrating enough that he is working to pay taxes that are buying luxurious $800 home cooling systems for people whom he doesn’t even know while he himself must deal with the heat without air conditioning or with a $90 one-room window unit that he bought at a discount store.

It gets even more frustrating when he realizes that his taxes are buying those air conditioning units and room fans for mostly those who created their health problems with their own foolish decision to smoke.

Consider that the ailment most cited in applications — as well as in the pro-HEAP sob stories shared by elected officials and the press alike – is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). It is a serious lung disease (which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis) that gradually makes it hard to breathe. It is the No. 3 killer in America, claiming more than 125,000 lives every year.

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