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Published on July 3rd, 2018 | by Deb Wolf

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Takeaways from Tobacco Control Efforts Smoke Free Spaces – Including Outdoors, the New Frontier!

Current prEvents – Times Argus – June 29, 2018

Clearing the Air of Second Hand Smoke

By GINNY BURLEY

The trajectory of tobacco control efforts and smoking is clear: policies that control smoking, through price, location, advertising and flavors, reduce rates of smoking in adults and youth. Reduced rates of smoking reduce deaths from lung cancer, heart disease, and other diseases.

The other big take-away is that every step of the way, opponents have tried to stop progress on reducing tobacco use.
The tobacco control movement really got rolling in the 60’s with the surgeon general’s report on the dangers of smoking.

Over the next fifty plus years, laws and policies have been changed – some at the federal level, others at the state and local level – to make it harder for people to use tobacco in places where its use could harm other people. Airplanes, workplaces, schools, restaurants, bars, clubs, cars with kids – each step took years, was vehemently opposed by some, and finally prevailed – with significant health benefits.

According to the Vermont Department of Health’s Center for Health Statistics, adult smoking rates are at an all-time low of 17% now, meaning that 83% of adults do not smoke. Youth smoking rates have dropped to 9%. It is important to note, however, that Big Tobacco has begun aggressively marketing e-cigarettes, or vapes, in designs and flavors that appeal to youth. In the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 35% of Vermont students have tried one of these products.

I don’t smoke. Should I worry about second hand smoke?

When a smoker inhales, hundreds of carcinogens are drawn into the lungs where they cause damage over time. What we pay less attention to is what happens then. The smoke that is exhaled (mainstream smoke) also contains carcinogens that are breathed in by anyone nearby. In addition, that bystander is also directly inhaling smoke (sidestream smoke), involuntarily, from the burning cigarette. Secondhand smoke causes nearly 50,000 deaths every year; since the 1964 Surgeon General’s report, 2.5 million adults who were nonsmokers have died from secondhand smoke. Health Effects of Secondhand Smoke | American Lung Association
www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/health-effects-of-secondhand-smoke.html Secondhand smoke costs billions of dollars in lost productivity; is linked to asthma, especially in children; and is a leading cause of SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It contributes to spiraling health care costs. And it is the third leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S.

What about second hand smoke outdoors?

There is a misperception that when secondhand smoke occurs outdoors there is little or no health risk. This is not true. Studies have shown that exposure at outdoor locations and events can approach levels found in indoor areas where smoking is permitted. The nearer you are to the smoker, the more exposure you will have.

Here are the benefits of smoke-free policies:

1) Protecting kids and adults from Secondhand Smoke (SHS). There is no safe level of SHS, which contains over 7000 chemicals – 70 of which are known to cause cancer; 2) Protecting the environment. Cigarette butts can take over a decade to break down. They pollute our streets and waters and can be ingested by wildlife; 3) Motivating smokers to quit. Smoke-free policies encourage smokers to cut back on smoking and attempt to quit. They help those who have quit to avoid temptation; 4) Preventing youth initiation. Children and teens are less likely to start smoking if they are not seeing smoking around them.

Who can change smoking regulations?

That depends. Federal law addresses airplanes, advertising, flavors, low income housing, and mandates a 50 foot perimeter around federal buildings.

In Vermont, the state decides age of purchase and requires smoke free workplaces, offices, stores, restaurants, bars, private clubs, schools, cars with young children, and the Statehouse lawn.

Cities and Towns can restrict outdoor smoking areas, including parks, town properties, and public areas; they can regulate total advertising, location and density of tobacco vendors; they can declare smoke free spaces and events.

Colleges and Universities can have smoke free campus policies – all Vermont State Colleges will be Tobacco Free by July 1, 2019, and many private campuses have made the change.

3-4-50 is the Vermont Department of Health’s simple concept to help us grasp the reality that 3 health behaviors contribute to 4 chronic diseases that claim the lives of more than 50% of Vermonters each year. The 3 behaviors are: Tobacco Use; Lack of Physical Activity; and Poor Diet. The 4 diseases are: Lung Disease; Diabetes; Heart Disease; and Cancer. These diseases cause 58% of Washington County residents’ deaths each year. In Vermont smoking costs $348 million in medical expenses each year and results in 1,000 smoking-related deaths each year. Prevention is key to reducing these costs in lives, health, and dollars.

Good news–Cessation help is available from 802 Quits. This program provides Vermonters with tools, advice, tips, information and products to help quit smoking – by phone, in person, online, and on your own. This may take several attempts and each time results in health benefits.

Smoke-free Laws have huge public health benefits. They help people quit. They keep people, including youth, from starting to use tobacco. And they contribute to a clean, healthy environment.

Ginny Burley is the Prevention Educator with Central Vermont New Directions Coalition
Send feedback to currentprevents@gmail.com.


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