Top doc affirms smoking ban’s wisdom
The surgeon general has issued a report that secondhand smoke is indisputably an "alarming" health hazard.
U.S. SURGEON General Richard H. Carmona has affirmed the premise of a broad smoking ban approved by this year's Legislature that secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard. Recent studies have proved that smoke coming directly from the lit end of a cigarette is more toxic than the filtered smoke ingested by the smoker.
Carmona issued a lengthy report that no level of secondhand smoke is safe and that nonsmokers' exposure increases their risk of heart disease by 25 percent to 30 percent and of cancer by 20 to 30 percent. "I am here to say the debate is over," he said. "The science is clear."
The Legislature last month enacted a bill that will ban smoking in county and state facilities, workplaces and enclosed or partially enclosed places open to the public. The ban will include bars and nightclubs, airports, public transportation facilities and vehicles, restrooms, lobbies and reception areas. It is scheduled to take effect Nov. 16, the day of the Great American Smokeout.
Enforcement of the law should have a profound effect on employers' policies and employees' health. Studies cited by Carmona's report show that indoor workers reporting smoke-free workplace policies in Hawaii rose from 47 percent in 1992-93 to 62.2 percent in 2001-02, while the national percentage grew from 46.6 percent to 71.1 percent.
The danger will remain in households, where 22 percent of children are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the surgeon general's report. It says that secondhand smoke took 430 lives last year by sudden infant death syndrome. Carmona urged parents to quit smoking and to move their smoking outside while trying to quit.
An additional reason to quit is a new law, beginning Sept. 30, increasing Hawaii's $1.40-a-pack cigarette tax by 20 cents a year over the next six years, bringing it to $2.60 a pack.
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