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SF air laws save lives

Posted by healthierjc on July 18, 2017 at 1:45 PM

I love smokers, but I hate their smoke.

I have known many dear people in my lifetime who dealt with smoking and its implications, including those affected by secondhand smoke, and sometimes I just have to leave the room.

I remember sitting at restaurants in the old days when smoke from the “smoking section” would drift and fill the entire dining room with a cloudy haze. Smoking and non-smoking sections weren’t the answer. Compare it to a woman shooting hairspray for an hour. Odors and chemicals just do not stay put.

The 2006 Surgeon General’s Report on secondhand smoke was clear. The scientific evidence on the health risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke clearly showed that it is a cause of lung cancer, heart disease, low birth weights, respiratory ailments and other health problems in non-smokers.

In 2014, 29 people in Johnson County died from diseases attributed to secondhand smoke. The economic burden was $46.6 million in excess medical expenses and premature loss of life, costs that were assumed by businesses, government and individual citizens.

So for me and the majority of our population who appreciate breathing clean air, it was a wonderful thing that Indiana lawmakers took notice. On July 1, Indiana celebrated the 5-year anniversary of its smoke-free air law protecting workers and patrons from secondhand smoke in restaurants and other workplaces.

Counties and municipalities have the opportunity to strengthen the state law by adding bars and clubs to protect all workers and patrons. Franklin and Greenwood have both strengthened their tobacco policies.

Franklin ran the gauntlet of establishing a totally smoke-free city back in 2009, three years before the state stepped up. It is the only governing body in Johnson County to fully embrace a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance that bans smoking and vaping devices in all workplaces, including restaurants, bars and clubs. No worker or patron in Franklin is subject to the health effects of secondhand smoke and employers don’t have to cover costs of lost productivity or absenteeism from smoking-related illnesses.

There is mounting evidence of the public health benefits that comprehensive smoke-free air laws provide.

In June, the City of Indianapolis reported a decline in heart attack admissions by approximately 25% in the five years following its comprehensive smoke-free air ordinance. The study provides more evidence of the health benefits that comprehensive smoke-free air laws provide and shows the actual public health gains that have taken place in the Indianapolis community over the last five years.

When Franklin’s ordinance first took effect, private club and bar owners cried foul. They claimed they would lose business and have to close. It seems just the opposite happened.

Franklin today is a tribute to what a healthy, fun, thriving community should look like. Business is booming and Franklin has become a destination spot for visitors. The smoke-free environment is just one piece of the puzzle that includes the hard work of economic development, government, business, and civic groups along with new entrepreneurs that see Franklin as a promising business climate.

Other county businesses took notice, and in the past few years reinvented themselves as smoke-free establishments, including the Crowbar Inn in Trafalgar and the Bargersville Bar and Grill. Some bars created cozy outdoor lounges for their smoking customers. Everyone adjusted and business is good.

But many bars and clubs lag behind the trend, and because county workers surrounding Franklin are not covered by a comprehensive county smoking ordinance they are subject to the same old onslaught of smoke as in the old days. Some would argue that they chose to work in a smoking environment, but working parents or college students may not have control over the hours or location where they work.

Why would a public health policy in Johnson County be beneficial for restaurant workers but not bar workers? Maybe it’s time we follow Franklin’s example and level the playing field for all employees to create a healthy environment for everyone.

Nancy Voris

Partnership Tobacco Program Coordinator

Categories: Policy

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