Over the last decade, we have made steady progress in protecting Americans from the deadly consequences of tobacco use with passage of comprehensive smoke-free policies. But it’s too soon to rest on our laurels. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have enacted smoke-free laws for workplaces, bars and restaurants since 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and if current trends continue, the nation could be 100 percent smoke-free by 2020. However, nearly half of the country still lacks comprehensive smoke-free laws, hampering efforts to reduce tobacco use and smoking-related illnesses in the southern region of the country where heart disease and stroke death rates remain high. Tobacco use is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer. We must zero in on those areas that continue to lag despite studies that show smoke-free policies benefit public health and the local economy with lower health care costs.
The CDC report, State Smoke-free Laws for Worksites, Restaurants, and Bars – United States, 2000-2010, indicates approximately 88 million Americans are still exposed to secondhand smoke and several states have exemptions that put too many nonsmokers at risk. This remains a hurdle that must be addressed with passage of strong legislation to close loopholes. Elected officials, particularly those in the south, must do more to enact comprehensive smoke-free laws and give citizens a greater opportunity to breathe clean air.
For more information, visit the CDC website.