Ohio Supreme Court Ruling Underscores Need for State's Cities and Counties to Enact Measures Protecting Citizens from Secondhand Smoke

Statement of William V. Corr Executive Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Aug. 28 2002

Washington, DC — We are disappointed that the Ohio Supreme Court today undermined efforts to protect the state's citizens from the proven dangers of secondhand smoke by ruling that local Boards of Health lack the authority to implement clean indoor air measures. This ruling makes it imperative that elected officials in Ohio's cities and counties act quickly to safeguard their citizens' health and right to breathe clean air by passing secondhand smoke protections.

Secondhand smoke is a proven killer, having been shown to cause heart disease, cancer, sudden infant death syndrome, and numerous other illnesses and health problems. Second smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals and 43 carcinogens including formaldehyde, cyanide, arsenic, carbon monoxide, methane, benzene, and radioactive polonium-210. In June, after an expert review of thousands of scientific studies around the world, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, issued a report on secondhand smoke that concluded, "Nonsmokers are exposed to the same carcinogens as active smokers. Even the typical levels of passive exposure have been shown to cause lung cancer" among people who have never smoked. Other organizations that have concluded secondhand smoke causes serious medical conditions include the World Health Organization, U.S. Surgeon General, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, American Medical Association, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and American Academy of Pediatrics.

Secondhand smoke is responsible nationally for at least 38,000 deaths each year, according to the CDC. A 1997 study by university researchers showed that secondhand smoke led to over 500,000 physician visits by kids for asthma that year nationally, and a 1995 CDC study found that about 250,000 children a year suffer from lung and bronchial infections caused by secondhand smoke.

In addition to protecting non-smokers, secondhand smoke protections are a powerful way to reduce smoking among both adults and kids. The Surgeon General concluded in a 2000 Report on Reducing Tobacco Use that clean indoor air laws have been shown to decrease daily tobacco consumption and to increase smoking cessation among smokers who wish to quit.

There has been a strong trend nationwide toward enactment of secondhand smoke protections. Before 1985, fewer than 200 communities nationwide had such ordinances, and today that number stands at over 1,300. This year, Delaware became the second state in the nation (joining California) to go smoke-free. We all have the right to breathe clean air safe from the dangers of secondhand smoke, and Ohio's local elected officials should act quickly to protect this right for their constituents.

 

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