Anti-Smoking Legislation Passing Across the United States
> 1/22/2007 11:45:04 AM

The North American anti-smoking movement reached a milestone in the final weeks of 2006 when the state of Nevada, a notorious bastion of unhealthy habits, outlawed smoking in public spaces (excepting the gambling floors of casinos, which are perhaps the last refuge for Las Vegas chain-smokers). According to the advocacy group Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, more than fifty percent of  U.S. citizens now live in an area covered by some sort of legal smoking restriction that applies to work and/or private business environments.

One of the motivating factors behind the continued expansion of these precedents is a 2006 U.S. Surgeon General's report which completely invalidates the argument that lighting up in public is a "victimless crime" by detailing the adverse physical effects of second-hand smoke. Among the disturbing statistics documented therein is the fact that, although smoking levels and the presence of second-hand smoke in public indoor spaces have each declined significantly in the last decade, a 2001 study revealed that, on a daily basis, 43 percent of American non-smokers still register detectable levels of cotinine, a nicotine metabolite that remains in the system up to 96 hours after inhaling tobacco smoke. Perhaps even more upsetting is the fact that more than 22 million, or approximately 60 percent, of American children aged 3-11 routinely face exposure to second-hand smoke in some form. In summary, the report states that there is no risk-free level of second-hand smoke exposure.

These numbers arrive alongside new studies indicating that each of the major tobacco companies have significantly increased the levels of nicotine in their products in recent years- without telling customers, of course. When considering an industry-wide nicotine increase of 10 percent per cigarette from 1998 to 2004, one can only infer that these companies look to further cement their consumer base by making their products even more addictive. RJ Reynolds may cite the Surgeon General's report in the horribly titled "Smoking and Health" section of their website, but the fact that they claim to faithfully address the concerns of health-conscious consumers is laughable.

California's then-revolutionary 1998 decision to ban smoking in all indoor establishments (including bars) led other states and cities to follow their lead, with a great deal of public attention focused on New York City's comprehensive anti-smoking legislation. At first, many residents did not take well to the idea of such a far-reaching ban, but the policy, at least as it applies to indoor air quality, has been extremely successful: a 2004 study reported an average of nine times the air pollution in New Jersey establishments; New Jersey, unlike New York, had yet to enact any large-scale bans.

Some business owners object to such legislation, claiming that smoking customers will be more likely to forego their establishments in favor of those that allow indoor tobacco use or, alternately, that they will choose to stay home altogether. Statistics do not bear this argument out: the hospitality industry has recently registered increased business in many cities that adopted stricter anti-smoking policies. The fact is that the customer group that would prefer to eat or drink at smoke-filled establishments is and will remain a minority. Bans on smoking in the privacy of one's home are not feasible within the law, so those who make the regrettable choice to use tobacco will always be able to find some sort of venue for their habit, but restaurant patrons and co-workers will no longer be passive parties forced to inhale damaging fumes. We see no problem with this equation.


While much has been written on this topic, your articles typically express both the positive and negative aspects of these important issues, without taking an emotional stance on either side of the spectrum.
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Posted by: Larry 2/19/2008 12:21:25 PM

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