Hawaii anti-smoking measures are on the right track
The state House and Senate have agreed on details of a bill to broaden the smoking ban.
NONSMOKERS will breathe easier after the Legislature enacts a broad smoking ban that includes private facilities open to the public
, beginning on Nov. 16, the day of the Great American Smokeout. Such a ban's inconvenience to smokers pales in comparison with the aggravation and health risks to others.
House and Senate conferees have agreed on specifics of the ban, including bars and nightclubs, airports, public transportation facilities and vehicles, restrooms, lobbies and reception areas. Areas open to the public in offices, banks, laundromats, hotels, condominiums and other buildings also will be smoke-free.
The legislation follows a growing trend across the country, including Southern states that had been reluctant to impose such restrictions, according to data collected by the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation. In the past two years, nine states and 156 towns, cities and counties have approved smoking bans.
Seventeen states and 461 towns, cities and counties now have no-smoking laws. Still, 34 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were handed scores of "F" by the foundation. Hawaii scores "B," due partly to county ordinances that cover 80 percent of the state's population.
Smokers need to understand that secondhand smoke has been found to be even riskier than what they ingest. Studies have shown that 85 percent of the smoke coming directly from the lit end of a cigarette is more toxic than what the smoker inhales through filters and then exhales.
Health officials estimate that secondhand smoke causes 3,000 cases of lung cancer in American nonsmokers a year. They believe smoking bans have caused cases of lung cancer to drop. Suzaynn Schick, a University of California-San Francisco cell biologist, told legislators last year that secondhand smoke also causes stroke, heart disease and respiratory disease.
Rep. Dennis Arakaki, chairman of the House Health Committee, hopes the ban will send a message to parents and caregivers "that it is not good to smoke in homes where children are."
An increase in Hawaii's tobacco tax might be as important by making the habit too expensive for many smokers to continue the habit and young people to begin. The tax is now $1.40 per pack. The Senate has approved a bill that would increase that tax to $1.80 next year, $2.20 in 2008 and $2.40 in 2009. The House has endorsed a one-time increase to $1.90, effective this July.
Studies show that every 10 percent increase results in a reduction of 3 percent to 7 percent in young people who begin smoking. While American adult smokers have fallen to 20.9 percent, 21.7 percent of high school smokers have begun developing the addiction.