Clearing the (workplace) air In response to the article, "Should state agencies refuse to hire people who smoke?" (Jan. 26): No constitutional issues are raised when businesses refuse to employ smokers, since constitutions put limits on governmental bodies, not on private corporations.

Several courts have held that there is no constitutional right to smoke, and that even governments, therefore, are free not to hire smokers.

Federal antidiscrimination statutes do not prohibit the practice since smoking is a changeable behavior rather than "an immutable characteristic," like race or gender. And saving as much as $5,000 per year per employee in medical care, disability, and other costs clearly provides a "rational basis" for the policy. John F. Banzhaf III Executive director, Action on Smoking and Health Washington

Moderate, not compassionate I was struck by the poignancy of the headline about Texas Governor George W. Bush ("'Compassionate Conservatism,' Bush Style," Jan. 19). Moderate he may be; compassionate he's not.

I can't help thinking of Gov. Bush as the person who was so lacking in compassion that he let [convicted murderer] Karla Faye Tucker be executed a year ago.

Ms. Tucker's crime was heinous, but she spent 14 years rebuilding her character, dedicating herself to her faith, and performing good works, and all she asked for was a commutation of her sentence to life in prison.

Call Bush a moderate, but don't call him compassionate. Richard B. Frantzreb Roseville, Calif.

'Quality' time for children Regarding "Does family care rank behind defense," by columnist Marilyn Gardner (Jan. 13): The saying "quality not quantity" serves only the purpose of relieving guilt from the working parent. Children really want their parents to be there for them at all times.

Something I found helpful during my daughter's teen years was encouraging her to include after-school employment (or volunteer work before she was old enough to be employed). This gave her a new dimension of her identity as well as a sense of purpose and contribution to her community. Judy Secker Olympia, Wash.

Testing pesticides on people I was horrified to read that the EPA is considering drawing guidelines for testing pesticides on humans ("How ethical is testing pesticides on people, EPA asks," Jan. 14).

Who would agree to ingest potentially harmful chemicals for pay? The disenfranchised would. The poor, the uneducated, the addicted, and the mentally ill would.

Would those signing the volunteers' paychecks enlist their own children, or their own parents, or themselves? I think not. Catherine Dowdell Jacksonville, Fla.

Online dating not all roses Regarding "Click here for romance" (Jan. 13): Not all online dating experiences result in happy endings.

Because such style of communication encourages the sharing of personal thoughts and feelings, it creates a premature intimacy that can make one especially vulnerable to false hopes.

While writing letters may bring out honesty in some individuals, others who are dishonest can easily pretend to be someone they are not. T. Story Muncie, Ind.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail, only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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