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Alice Curry puts face on smoke-free campaign

smoke-free campaign
THE anti-smoking campaign in Bartholomew County — and perhaps throughout the state — now has a face.

It is that of a dynamic woman who is most commonly known for her advocacy of other causes in this community — notably the arts and most especially Columbus Indiana Philharmonic.

Over the past three decades, Alice Curry and the philharmonic have been synonymous. As director of the organization for most of that time, she was known as a fierce champion for its mission.

Together with Music Director David Bowden and others, she put the orchestra into a position of nationwide acclaim.

For the past two years she has had to deal with a very personal issue — her mortality. In August 2009 she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. In essence, she got a death sentence.

She retired last year as director of the philharmonic — not to acknowledge the disease that had taken over her body, but to move on to other causes. One of the most demanding was supervision of the celebratory events surrounding the opening of The Commons.

At the same time, she became deeply involved with the anti-smoking movement, most notably the effort to reduce the incidence of diseases, such as the one which will likely kill her, through legislation that would address the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Earlier this year she testified before a committee of the Indiana Senate on behalf of a measure that would ban smoking in public gathering places, including bars and private clubs. The legislation was intended to address the issue of secondhand smoke and the role it plays in cancers detected among those who are exposed to it.

Although she did not directly tie her disease to secondhand smoke, she noted that she had never smoked but was throughout her life exposed to others who did. Her physician bluntly observed that “there’s no question secondhand smoke very likely played a role in her cancer.”

In addition to her testimony before the Senate panel, Curry has also written Letters to the Editor on the subject and recently participated in a video documentary on the subject in conjunction with the local Tobacco Awareness Action Team.

Unfortunately, those efforts were to little avail in the General Assembly. The legislation was amended to the point that its sponsors were so embarrassed that they withdrew the bill from consideration.

That has not stopped Curry. Nor should it stop elected officials on the local and state level.

Columbus took a major step forward in 2005 by adopting a smoking ordinance, but it was only a half-measure. The City Council eventually bowed to complaints from bars and private clubs and exempted them from the coverage.

It was a situation that was repeated earlier this year on the state level.

Indiana will have to wait until next year to again consider the issue, but city officials have an opportunity to finish what they started in 2005 — a comprehensive smoking ban with no exemptions.

It will accomplish many things, including saving lives and paying tribute to a brave woman.

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