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Where does 'public space' end and 'my space' begin?

Sanitizing all public spaces smells a bit like government regulation of private lives.

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Anyone who has flown the friendly skies of late may have noticed a disturbing trend. I'm not referring to the endless post-9/11 security checks we've all come to expect, where shoes, tweezers, laptops, nail files, and a variety of other formerly nonthreatening items now double as WMD.

But there's another war brewing - a new terror in the skies. It's the war on nut snacks. And it could get ugly.

While the peanut war is not exactly a new conflict, (some schools have outlawed the nut in an attempt to minimize risks to peanut allergy sufferers), the latest brouhaha surrounding this popular legume has once again reared its ugly head, surfacing 30,000 feet up where peanut allergy sufferers and airlines may come to blows once again.

The last highly publicized firestorm targeting the peanut was back in 1998, when the government introduced legislation requiring "peanut-free buffer zones" on all flights (at least three rows for passengers who document severe allergy to peanuts). But much to the dismay of the peanut allergy sufferer who remains at risk for an attack or even possible death just from being in the same room with peanut dust, that bill was nixed in the 11th hour.

Currently, there are no established guidelines within the airline industry regarding peanuts and peanut allergies. Rather, airlines have established their own protocol of varying degrees, from peanut snacks to no tree-nut products at all allowed on board.

Anecdotal reports from recent flights confirm the lack of uniformity among different airlines. New York City frequent flier Jeff Gold was privy to the route some airlines have chosen in an effort to address the needs of peanut allergy sufferers.

During his JetBlue flight from JFK airport to West Palm Beach, Fla., last month, Mr. Gold was surprised to hear an additional announcement following the preflight emergency instructions: "This is a peanut-free flight," the airline attendant warned, requesting that anyone with any peanut products refrain from opening them while on board.


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