Smoking gets no voter sympathy
An anti-tobacco group survey shows strong isle opinions against lighting up in public
A majority of Hawaii voters believe smoking should be prohibited in all enclosed public places, including restaurants and bars, according to a survey sponsored by anti-tobacco groups.
The Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii found that 85 percent of 605 Hawaii registered voters who were surveyed by Ward Research Inc., from Oct. 28 to Nov. 5, said there should be a statewide law to prohibit smoking in enclosed public places.
"There is clearly a mandate from Hawaii voters for statewide legislation limiting smoking in all public places and workplaces," said Deborah Zysman, the director of the coalition, at a news conference yesterday.
SURVEY SAYS HAWAII VOTERS READY TO GET TOUGH ON SMOKING
A survey of 605 Hawaii registered voters was recently conducted by Ward Research Inc. on behalf of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii. The survey showed:
» 85 percent of Hawaii voters surveyed support a statewide law to prohibit smoking in all enclosed public places including workplaces, public buildings, offices, restaurants and bars.
» 86 percent support establishing a reasonable distance from the entrances, windows, and ventilation uptakes around or into areas where smoking is prohibited.
» 90 percent believe the right to breathe clean air is more important than the right to smoke.
» 88 percent of those surveyed regard secondhand smoke as a health hazard.
» 93 percent believe all workers should have protection from secondhand smoke and that everyone has the right to breathe clean air.
» 77 percent agree that restaurants and bars would be healthier if they were completely smoke-free.
Source: Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii
Although all Hawaii counties have law regarding smoke-free workplaces, there is no such statewide ordinance.
Zysman said she plans to propose legislation to lawmakers next year based on the poll results to better protect workers and patrons from secondhand smoke.
The state's current statute relating to secondhand smoke enacted in 1987 is outdated, she said.
"We know a lot more about the dangers and impact of secondhand smoke now than we did in 1987. What we have now is a patchwork of county ordinances. Some provide pretty good protections for employees. Some are not quite as good," Zysman added.
"So what we have right now is inconsistencies depending on which county you're in," she said. "Everyone should be afforded a safe, smoke-free workplace."
Chris Pablo, director of government and community affairs for the Hawaii region of Kaiser Permanente, said a study done by Philip Morris in the 1980s revealed that secondhand smoke is four times more toxic than mainstream smoke. About 1,100 deaths annually in Hawaii are attributed to smoking and secondhand smoke, Pablo said.
Secondhand smoke remains a problem in the workplace, according to Tony Saguibo, chairman-elect of the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii and union representative of the Laborers' International Union of North America Local 368.
According to their statistics, 41 percent of people in Hawaii still work in an environment where smoking is allowed.
"No worker should have to work in an environment where the air he or she breathes is less clean that those of the standards of clean outdoor air," Saguibo said.
Along with the harmful effects linked to secondhand smoke, tobacco-related illnesses also have a significant economic impact on businesses and consumers.
Tobacco use costs Hawaii residents more than $300 million a year in health care and lost productivity, Zysman said. And 90 percent of these health care costs are covered by businesses, she said, adding that these costs are often passed to consumers.
Ten states -- California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Montana -- have passed comprehensive, statewide laws prohibiting smoke in all workplaces.
Progress has been made in the last five years in Hawaii to prohibit smoking in enclosed public places, Zysman said. "We just need to go to the next level," she said.
HEALTH EFFECTS OF SECONDHAND SMOKE
» Secondhand smoke is the third-leading cause of preventable death, killing 53,000 nonsmokers in the United States each year.
» An estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths and more than 35,000 coronary heart disease deaths occur annually among adult nonsmokers in the United States as a result of exposure to secondhand smoke.
» Known health effects of secondhand smoke exposure include lung and nasal sinus cancer, heart disease and sudden infant death syndrome. Serious affects of secondhand smoke on children include asthma induction and exacerbation, bronchitis and pneumonia, middle ear infection, chronic respiratory symptoms, and low birth weight.
» Long-term exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of developing breast cancer in younger, primarily pre-menopausal, women.
» Secondhand smoke has been linked to acute heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control consider secondhand smoke so dangerous, they advise people with heart conditions to avoid exposure to it for even 30 minutes due to increased risk of heart attack.
Source: Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawaii