Why smoking ordinance is valuable for health

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, February 13, 2004

On this 40th anniversary of the landmark Surgeon General's Report on Smoking (1964), we know some extremely vital things about tobacco and smoking.

In 1964, about 50 percent of all adults in America smoked cigarettes. In 2004, about 24 percent smoke. Cigarette smoking kills about 440,000 women and men each year (about one person each minute). Thirty percent of all cancer deaths are caused by cigarette smoking. Secondhand smoke contributes substantially to these deaths.

So what is the big deal about proactive issues with indoor clean air, telephone quit lines (Alaska's is (888) 842-QUIT), teenage smoking and secondhand smoke?

It is a health issue - a personal health issue for those who breathe secondhand smoke and a population issue for the community at large.

Amongst the persuasions of personal rights to smoke or to be free from smoke, income issues for entrepreneurs, taxes, and employer accountabilities for employees and clients/patrons - it is definitely still a health issue.

It is critical that we use some "rules of reason" in our deliberations. Secondhand smoke is responsible for 53,000 deaths per year in our country. It is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Secondhand smoke is responsible for increased morbidity (what makes people sick), mortality (what kills people), days lost from work, higher health care costs for illnesses and compromised health among the people of Juneau.

Why would a progressive and health conscious community want to do this? The Clean Indoor Air Ordinance is a valuable asset to help enable personal health and public health from secondhand smoke. We can do better than shovel smoke.

Carolyn V. Brown, M.D., MPH


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