April 22, 2011

All States May Have Smoking Bans By 2020: CDC

Comprehensive smoking bans exist in more than half of the states in the US, and by 2020, the entire country could have laws banning smoking in all indoor areas of private worksites, restaurants and bars, a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday shows.

The projection is based on the current rate at which states have enacted smoke-free laws.

"In the span of 10 years, smoke-free workplaces, restaurants and bars went from being relatively rare to being the norm in half of the states and District of Columbia," researchers said in the CDC report, published in the journal Morbidity and Mortality.

"It is by no means a foregone conclusion that we'll get there by 2020," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health.

But most southern states still allow smoking at restaurants, bars and worksites.

Seven states have no indoor smoking restrictions. These include Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming. While these states do not have indoor smoking bans, some cities have adopted their own smoke-free laws for public places in their area.

10 states have smoking bans in one or two -- but not all three -- public places, according to the CDC report. Some states have less restrictive laws, like requiring smoking areas with separate ventilation.

About 88 million non-smokers in the US are still exposed to secondhand smoke in public places as a result of states with limited or no bans on smoking, said the CDC.

"Eliminating smoking from worksites, restaurants and bars is a low-cost, high-impact strategy that will protect nonsmokers and allow them to live healthier, longer, more productive lives while lowering health care costs associated with secondhand smoke," said CDC director Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "While there has been a lot of progress over the past decade, far too many Americans continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke at their workplaces, increasing their risk of cancer and heart attacks."

Despite increased rates of state and local legislature adopting smoke-free laws, more than half of children in the US over age 3 are still exposed to secondhand smoke. According to the US Surgeon General, measures such as separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings do not fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, and the only effective measure is to ban smoking in all indoor areas.

"Secondhand smoke is responsible for 46,000 heart disease deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers each year," said Ursula Bauer, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "Completely prohibiting smoking in all public places and workplaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure."

"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," Nancy Brown, chief executive of the American Heart Association, told Reuters in a statement.

Secondhand smoke causes an estimated 46,000 deaths from heart disease and 3,400 deaths from lung cancer in the US each year, according to reports from the CDC.

Gary Nolan, director of a smokers' rights group (the Smoker"Ëœs Club), said he wouldn't be surprised if all 50 states do adopt smoking bans by 2020. Public health officials and other agencies have placed increasing pressure on businesses to ban smoking, he added.

"It wouldn't surprise me if they prevailed," said Nolan. "It's just a little bit more liberty slipping away at the hands of big government."

Brown said the CDC report brings good news. But she said advocates have a lot of work ahead of them to make the 2020 prediction come true. "It's too soon to rest on our laurels," she added.


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