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Wash. U. Study Got It RIGHT: Smoke Eaters Don't Work

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Martin Pion is founder of MO-GASP (Missouri Group Against Smoking Pollution)
Washington University researchers recently released a study of smoking pollution levels in various restaurants and bars in metro St. Louis. Airborne nicotine was used as a measure of secondhand smoke (SHS).

Important findings of the study, posted on-line are:

1) "Venues that allowed smoking had significantly higher levels of nicotine than smoke-free venues"

2) "Ventilation systems were not effective in eliminating exposure to SHS."

This echoes the latest U.S. Surgeon General's Report on SHS, released in 2006 by Dr. Richard Carmona, which drew this major conclusion about ventilation:

"Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke."

The first U.S. Surgeon General's Report on SHS, released by Dr. C. Everett Koop in 1986, concluded that SHS caused lung cancer in exposed healthy nonsmokers, and simple separation of smokers and nonsmokers reduced, but didn't eliminate, the risk.

Dr. Koop called on the nation to protect nonsmokers from SHS and help smokers quit their addiction. The tobacco industry responded by vilifying Dr. Koop.

As president of Missouri GASP, I've been actively involved in this issue since 1984, initially lobbying in Jefferson City for statewide smoke-free air legislation. It became clear after a few fruitless years that the tobacco lobby effectively controlled the state legislature and that progress would only come at the local level.

Often, however, local politicians were reluctant to tackle this obvious health and welfare issue, and progress was slow for years. Even when ordinances were enacted requiring workplaces to be smoke-free, hospitality industry venues, which were the last bastion of the tobacco industry, were exempted.

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St. Louisan Don Young can tell ya' about the perils of smoking and second-hand smoke.
The City of Ballwin took a major step forward locally with a comprehensive 2005 ordinance, introduced by former Alderman Charles Gatton. Contrary to fears of loss of business, after enactment, businesses in Ballwin actually fared better than those in neighboring smoking-permitted cities.

Smoke-free air is particularly important for one segment of the population: smoke-sensitive asthmatics and those with similar disabilities.

Don Young, a smoker until he developed throat cancer, is a prime example. He barely survived two serious operations, ending with complete removal of his larynx. He now speaks with an electro-larynx. Each morning, before he can eat, he has to insert a weighted tube into his throat to open his esophagus. Ironically, Don has become highly smoke sensitive and cannot endure SHS. The only good news is that Don is now motivated by his experience to visit schools and use himself as an example to deter youth smoking.

Smoke-free air in public places and private workplaces means that no one has to endure smoking as part of his or her job description.

At last the "Smoke-Me State" is starting to "breathe free."

Note: Read Tony Palazzolo's response: Wash U. Study Got it WRONG: Smoke Eaters Do Work


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