It has been more than 4 decades ago since smoking was proven to cause lung cancer and other serious diseases. Almost at the same time, the negative perception that second hand smoke can cause serious disease and premature death in both adults and children have been confirmed. Thanks to the report of the United States Surgeon General entitled “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke,” it has strengthened our view on the ill effects of cigarettes to people who smoke as well as to those who do not smoke.
The report came up with major conclusions on the health risks of second hand smoke, such as:
Second hand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer and heart disease in non-smoking adults and of sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight, acute respiratory infections, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children. It is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the United States of America each year.
There is no risk-free level of exposure to second hand smoke.
Exposure to second hand smoke has substantial and immediate adverse effects on cardiovascular and respiratory health.
Second hand smoke contains more than 50 carcinogens
Comprehensive smoke-free workplace policies are the only effective way to protect non-smokers from second hand smoke. Other approaches, such as air ventilation systems, and smoking and non-smoking sections of rooms, are not effective and do not not eliminate exposure.
Their conclusion is that it is about time that a comprehensive smoke-free law is enacted that will be applied to all workplaces and public places. The report also reaches another very important statement: “Evidence from peer-reviewed studies shows that smoke-free policies and regulations do not have an adverse economic impact on the hospitality industry.”
With this report, all arguments and excuses not to take action are eliminated. Many research and hard economic data have revealed that smoke-free laws do not harm sales or employment in restaurants and bars. In fact, they sometimes have positive feedbacks, such as what happened in New York City after the law has taken effect, business receipts for bars and restaurants increased, their job employment rose, and the number of liquor licenses increased. This happened despite the fact that most establishments complied with the law, and the great majority of New Yorkers supported the law.
Another positive outcome is that smoke-free laws resulted in money savings. According to statistics from the Society of Actuaries in the United States, second hand smoke resulted US$ 10 billion a year in health care bills, lost wages, and costs.
All over the world, there is a concerted effort from different government agencies to enact laws due mainly to the overwhelming evidence that smoke-free laws protect the health of the general public without harming the business sector. Even the corporate world have joined the bandwagon by maintaining smoke-free workplaces and providing a specified area for smoking. Some countries, states, provinces, territories, and districts have adopted full smoking bans inside restaurants and bars.
Passive smoking is a major but preventable cause of death. Since smoking hurts more people than just smokers, smoke-free laws need to be upheld at all times to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.