CDC Report: Smoke-Free Laws Protect Nearly 60 Percent of U.S. Population; Every State and Community Should Be Smoke-Free

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Jun. 23 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today that while states and localities have made tremendous progress in protecting people from secondhand smoke, we haven't done nearly enough – especially in the Southeast – to protect all Americans from this serious and entirely preventable health threat. About 40 percent of the U.S. population remains unprotected by comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws – which means too many people must still choose between earning a paycheck and breathing smoke-free air.

It’s time for every state and community to go smoke-free and protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air. The most urgent need is in the Southeast, where no states currently have a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free law. There is no excuse for inaction given the conclusive evidence that secondhand smoke harms health, while smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. Politicians who fail to act are sacrificing the health and even the lives of their constituents. It’s no coincidence that states lacking comprehensive smoke-free laws have higher rates of smoking and related diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease.

It’s been 10 years this month since the U.S. Surgeon General issued a landmark report concluding there is no scientific doubt about the health risks of secondhand smoke and the benefits of smoke-free laws. As the Surgeon General stated, “The scientific evidence is now indisputable: secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard that can lead to disease and premature death in children and nonsmoking adults.”

As a growing number of states, cities and entire countries have adopted smoke-free laws, we’ve seen over and over again that these laws are easily implemented, with widespread compliance and overwhelming public support. They quickly and dramatically improve air quality, protecting the respiratory health of workers and reducing heart attacks. And the evidence is clear that smoke-free laws do not harm business. Indeed, many businesses thrive – especially those that embrace these laws and use them to attract new customers.

Today’s report was published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Key findings include:

  • Currently, 27 states plus Washington, D.C. have comprehensive smoke-free laws prohibiting smoking in all indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars. However, progress has slowed greatly in recent years, with only two states (North Dakota and California) achieving comprehensive smoke-free status since 2010.

  • Nearly 60 percent of the U.S. population is now protected by comprehensive state or local smoke-free laws, up from less than three percent in 2000.

  • Smoke-free laws can be strengthened by including casinos and extending them to electronic cigarettes.

Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer. According to the Surgeon General, secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, heart disease and stroke in non-smoking adults and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low birth weight, respiratory problems, ear infections and more severe asthma in infants and children. The Surgeon General has also found that secondhand smoke is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year, there is no safe level of exposure, and only smoke-free laws provide effective protection.

The U.S. has made enormous progress in reducing smoking, with both adult and youth smoking rates falling to record lows of 15.1 percent and 10.8 percent respectively in 2015. However, tobacco use remains the nation’s No. 1 preventable cause of death, killing nearly half a million Americans and costing our nation about $170 billion a year in health care bills. Tens of millions of Americans are still exposed to secondhand smoke. It is within our reach to win the fight against tobacco and make the next generation tobacco-free, but only if elected officials at all levels fully implement what we know works – including comprehensive smoke-free laws in every state and community.

 

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