25 States and DC are Smoke-Free
Secondhand smoke causes about 46,000 heart disease deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths among U.S. nonsmoking adults annually. States have made progress in implementing smoke-free laws; however, many residents lack protection, particularly in the South.
What is Secondhand Smoke?
Secondhand smoke is a mixture of gases and fine particles. It includes smoke from the burning end of cigarettes and the smoke exhaled by smokers. Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds of these chemicals are toxic and about 70 can cause cancer. Secondhand smoke causes immediate harm and hurts anyone who breathes it. There isNO safe amount of secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be dangerous.
Are There Laws to Protect Me from Secondhand Smoke?
Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia have comprehensive laws that prohibit smoking in indoor areas of worksites, restaurants, and bars. However, there are regional differences in the states that have smoke-free laws. For example, seven states (Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming) have no statewide smoking restrictions in place. In other words, there are no statewide smoking restrictions for worksites, restaurants, or bars in these states. And in the South, while some states have a restriction for one or two venues, no southern state has a comprehensive state smoke-free law in effect that prohibits smoking in all three venues (worksites, restaurants, and bars). Comprehensive smoke-free laws are needed because the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke is to establish a smoke-free environment. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings do not fully eliminate secondhand smoke.
Are Existing Smoke-Free Laws Enough?
The United States has made considerable progress over the past decade in increasing the number of states with comprehensive smoke-free laws, and, as a result, an increasing number of U.S. residents live under such laws. In 2000, not a single U.S. state had a comprehensive smoke-free law. Ten years later, by the close of 2010, half of the states and the District of Columbia had implemented comprehensive smoke-free laws, and almost half (47.8 %) of the U.S. population was covered by comprehensive state or local smoke-free laws. But, despite this progress, about 88 million U.S. nonsmokers (3 years of age or older) continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke.
How Harmful is Secondhand Smoke?
Secondhand smoke causes immediate harm and hurts anyone who breathes it. Secondhand smoke causes heart disease, lung cancer, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and other serious health problems.
Secondhand smoke causes heart disease. When you breathe secondhand smoke, platelets in your blood get sticky and may form clots. Secondhand smoke also damages the lining of your blood vessels, and could trigger a heart attack.
Secondhand smoke also affects how well your lungs work. If you are asthmatic, breathing someone else's smoke can trigger an asthma attack. Secondhand smoke can even cause lung cancer in adults who never smoked because it contains cancer-causing chemicals.
Secondhand smoke also causes death and sickness in children. Babies who are around secondhand smoke are more likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, than children who are not exposed to secondhand smoke. Children whose parents smoke get more bronchitis and pneumonia, and they get more ear infections. For a child with asthma, exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger an attack severe enough to send the child to the hospital.
What Can I Do?
- Make your home and car completely smoke-free. Opening a window does not protect you or your children from secondhand smoke.
- If your state still allows smoking in public areas, look for restaurants and other places that do not allow smoking. Let owners of business that are not smoke-free know that smoke bothers you and that a "no-smoking" section is not good enough. Remember, separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings does NOT eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Make sure your children's day care centers and schools are tobacco-free. A tobacco-free campus policy prohibits any tobacco use or advertising on school property by anyone at any time. This includes off-campus school events.
- Do not let people smoke around you or your children.
The statewide smoke-free laws discussed in this article were pulled from CDC's State Tobacco Activities Tracking and Evaluation (STATE) System—an electronic data warehouse containing up-to-date and historical state-level data on tobacco use prevention and control. The STATE System presents state-level data measures categorized into seven topic areas: demographics, behaviors, economics, environment, funding, health consequences and costs, and legislation. This interactive, web-based data resource integrates tobacco control data from multiple, disparate sources into comprehensive summary reports to facilitate evaluation and policy support and to aid in consistent data interpretation across states.
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