Letter to the Editor,
Exposure to secondhand smoke is a serious public health issue. Secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in this country, killing 53,000 non-smokers in the United States each year. The presence of secondhand smoke in public commerce, denies equal access to huge portion of the public. Non-smokers regularly exposed to secondhand smoke suffer death or morbidity rates as much as 30 percent higher than those of unexposed non-smokers. When people smoke in public places and workplaces they affect the health of everyone around them. Employees who work in smoke-filled businesses suffer a 25 to 50 percent higher risk of heart attack and higher rates of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer than other types of workers.
There is no known safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Ventilation cannot eliminate the cancer-causing agents in buildings. The only solution for protecting workers and customers from the health hazards caused by secondhand smoke exposure is to make the entire area 100 percent smoke free.
Scientific research has demonstrated the effectiveness of smoke-free regulations in protecting the workers and has known that they benefit communities in many ways. Smoke-free regulations change public attitudes toward the acceptability of smoking, help folks quit smoking, decrease heart attack rates and hospitalizations for asthma. Young people who live and work in communities with smoke-free regulations are significantly less likely to become smokers.
The tobacco industry works with associations and organizations to convince business owners that smoke free workplace regulations will ruin their business. Every independent economic impact study examining sales tax data has found no negative economic impact from secondhand smoke laws in communities across the country.
Wetzel and Tyler Counties have just over 25,000 residents, with 77 percent of the both counties population non-smoking. The passage of a smoke free regulation for all work and public places would be good for public health and good for business. Wetzel and Tyler counties would join 33 other WV counties and thousands across the nation to break the grip of the tobacco industry on our community.
Chair of Wetzel County Cancer Coalition/Wetzel County Tobacco Coalition