Tobacco haters, kick your filthy habit

Boston’s ban on e-cigarettes shows what’s really driving the war on smoking: a weird desire to re-engineer our lifestyles.
Seven years have passed since Massachusetts became the sixth US state to introduce a state-wide indoor smoking ban. But officials there still haven’t kicked the habit of lifestyle engineering. Now they are going after electronic cigarettes, devices that smokers have so far been able to use in places where real cigarettes are prohibited, or even as an aide to quitting tobacco.
No more. As of last week, e-cigarettes are harder to come by for residents of Boston, the Massachusetts state capital, and there are fewer places where they can legally use them. That’s because the Boston Public Health Commission voted to start treating e-cigarettes as a tobacco product. Tough new restrictions were introduced with immediate effect and so Bostonians can no longer use e-cigarettes in workplaces, including on patios, decks and loading docks. The sale of e-cigs is now also restricted to adults only and retailers have to obtain a special permit to sell them and then keep them behind the counter.
At least 10 other Massachusetts communities have imposed restrictions on e-cigarettes, battery-powered devices that often resemble real cigarettes but come in hundreds of different flavours and produce nicotine-infused vapour instead of smoke. The Boston Board of Health justified the new rules by explaining that e-cigarette solution contains nicotine and a number of toxic chemicals and carcinogens, and that their safety has not yet been established by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Proponents of e-cigarettes disagree. Many users claim it has helped wean them off tobacco and point out that the electronic devices do not smell of nicotine and are less of a bother to other people than regular cigarettes. Some health advocates, too, say there are studies that show e-devices contain no more hazardous chemicals than other nicotine-replacement products, such as patches and chewing gums, and that they can be used as a successful smoking cessation tool. Furthermore, as there are no butts, e-cigarettes also produce much less litter than regular ones.
In any case, the clampdown on the battery-powered, scented inhalers has little to do with scientific proof. After all, the Boston Board of Health did not say that e-cigs are demonstrably dangerous – just that they haven’t yet been proven to be safe. It’s a kind of Rumsfeldian unknown unknown, used to justify a precautionary intervention.
Instead, the clampdown is a logical continuation of the narrowing of individual choice that the initial smoking ban in Boston and elsewhere embodied. It’s about rendering certain lifestyle choices unacceptable, regardless of objective measures of their relative harm or harmlessness. In this respect, a statement by Dr Nancy Rigotti, director of the Tobacco Research and Treatment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, was telling. She told the Boston Globe that her concern with e-cigarettes is that they mimic smoking. She said cigarettes are a powerful force in American culture and allowing e-cigarettes to be used in the workplace ‘reintroduces the idea of cigarettes into what are currently smoke-free environments and begins to renormalise tobacco use in these products’.
Rigotti’s concern, echoed by others, is that sucking on an inhaler looks unsavoury and after putting so much effort into banning smoking, the authorities apparently don’t want to let citizens engage in something that resembles it. After all these years of lobbying and legislation to render smoking unacceptable, they seem to be thinking, they’ll be damned if Americans are seduced into believing that even simulating smoking is the done thing. So perhaps the very act of putting any narrow object in-between your fingers, bringing it to your mouth, breathing in and exhaling should be banned, too?
Looking back at the timeline of tobacco bans in Boston, it seems the real addicts are the anti-smoking activists. They seem to have become hooked on advocating ever more draconian bans ever since experiencing the rush from succeeding in stamping out smoking in workplaces.
Back in 2004, then Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (currently a front-runner contender for the Republican presidential nomination) signed off legislation prohibiting smoking in all workplaces in the state, including restaurants and bars. In Boston, upmarket cigar bars, salons and hookah lounges got a 10-year reprieve, but there are barely a dozen of those around in the city and no new ones are permitted to open. In 2008, new restrictions were introduced which gave Boston among the most stringent anti-smoking laws in the US at the time. Drugstores and college campuses were prevented from selling cigarettes and smoking was eliminated from outdoor patios of restaurants and bars. Earlier this year, city councillors proposed a ban on smoking in public parks and beaches. And last week, along with the reclassification of e-cigarettes as a tobacco product, Boston prohibited the sale of low-cost, single-sale cigars. Next year, Boston will also introduce a ban on smoking in public housing.
Most of these restrictions on tobacco sales and smoking in public places have been backed up by studies claiming that the dangers of secondhand smoke justify intervention. But when it comes to the new e-cigarette rules, Boston authorities are barely even bothering to back up their decisions with scientific evidence.
The decision to equate e-cigarettes with tobacco in order to justify restricting them has laid bare what the war on smoking is really about: defining what is an acceptable lifestyle and making it ever tougher for citizens to deviate from it. What a filthy habit.

Without enforcement, tobacco ban is all smoke and mirrors

Last spring the University approved a Tobacco Free Policy which has been in effect since September 1, 2011. Though the administration had good intentions when they approved this policy it has yet to make a major difference on campus. This policy bans smoking on everything that is considered University property and affects not only students and faculty but customers, vendors, and visitors.
The goal of this policy is to eliminate any health risks such as second hand smoke, as well as environmental risks. The supporters of this policy also strive to provide a better environment for non-smokers and the university as a whole. Enforcement of this policy has been put on the shoulders of the entire BSU community.
Every day you can still find people who are either oblivious to the policy or simply do not care about it. The actions of these people could be due to the fact that there is no real enforcement of the policy. Yes, there are signs that have been put up around campus that remind people that the campus is now smoke-free. However, those signs have no real meaning if there is not any enforcement seen on campus. If it were not for those few signs posted, it would be hard to tell that this campus is in fact tobacco-free.
Another reason why this policy may not be proving to be effective is due to the fact that people are not sure what is considered property of BSU. An example of this confusion would be Park Ave, which is technically property of the town of Bridgewater. This means that people can stand on the sidewalk outside of the RCC and smoke a cigarette because it is not technically campus property. To someone who is not familiar with the campus, it may be even more confusing. They see a sign that says tobacco free campus, yet someone is smoking right outside of a building. It is the same at Moakley, where once you walk onto the sidewalk technically you are not on BSU property, which explains why groups of students can be seen congregated outside Moakley enjoying a cigarette.
What could make this policy more effective is if the university actually enforced it. If people caught smoking on campus had consequences to face then they would probably think twice before they lit a cigarette. Another thing that would help is if the university established certain areas on campus where students could go to smoke. Yes, that would defeat the purpose of the campus being tobacco free, however it would keep the smoking in one area.
At the end of the day, it is all up to the community as a whole. By now, all students should be aware of the policy. If they really cared about the well being of the community, then they would at least make some effort to follow it. This is our campus, though decisions may be made that we do not agree with, we should still try to support what administrators are trying to do to improve our community. Though the ban may seem unfair to smokers, this policy may turn out to be positive for the university in the years ahead.

Vancouver City Council bans using tobacco in public parks, trails, recreation centers

The Vancouver City Council members on Monday voted unanimously to completely ban all forms of tobacco — chewed and smoked — in the city’s public parks, trails and recreation centers. The ban will be effective in 30 days.
The vote followed a two-hour discussion that includes a string of public testimonies for and against the ordinance. The council also voted to prohibit possession and use of liquors, except during special events permitted by the city and state.
The discussion focused solely on banning tobacco in public parks, with Councilman Jack Burkman making a motion to not ban smokeless or chewed tobacco, saying that if someone wants to use smokeless tobacco, “I think that’s a line we may not want to cross.” Burkman’s motion failed.
Most of the public testimonies were in support of the ban.
Alan Melnick, a health officer for Clark County, said any form of tobacco is an “incredible health hazard” especially for youths.
“I don’t think there’s more important issue than tobacco,” Melnick said. “Even when parents smoke exclusively outside, (studies have found that) that their children still have high levels of nicotine in their bodies.”
For Vancouver resident Sonya Rowe, the issue of tobacco use is more personal. Rowe said she grew up around second-hand smoking while living in San Diego, Calif. and has been in and out of the hospital for cardio pulmonary issues.
“It’s so wonderful to come up here (in Washington) and take in a lungful of clean air,” Rowe said. “I want to see it continue to be that way.”
In October, the City of Vancouver Law Department and the Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Department proposed completely banning smoking any form of tobacco in public parks, trails and recreation centers, citing scientific research on the dangers of second-hand smoke.
Also approved after Monday’s discussion is keeping people out of parks for unruly or disruptive behavior. The ordinance includes rules on how long a person can be banned from a public park or recreation facility. This can be as short as seven days, or as long as one year, depending on the nature of the misconduct and prior violations of park rules.
By Kristine Guerra

Hearing on Harford tobacco ban draws slim crowd, mostly opponents

A hearing on the proposed tobacco use ban on all Harford County government property, including recreational facilities, drew a small crowd to the county administration building on Main Street in Bel Air Monday afternoon, mostly people who wanted to talk about the rights of smokers.
Just 10 people showed up and only a handful spoke, with the majority of them testifying against the ban.
County spokesman Bob Thomas, who moderated the session, warned the hearing “is not a session for dialogue… we are here to hear your comments.”
Thomas listened to the comments along with county Director of Administration Mary Chance, Human Resources Director Scott Gibson and Senior assistant county attorney Deborah Duvall.
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Several of those who spoke against the ban noted they are smokers who have either tried to quit in the past or have gotten cancer.
James Liescheidt, of Bel Air, said it was hard to be respectful when he sees “do-gooders” taking people’s rights away.
“When you are outside, what damage is a cigar or cigarette going to cause?” he asked, wondering if liquor stores will be the next target for a ban or if he will be banned from smoking while driving on a county road.
“I thought we had a Republican administration in Harford County. The Republicans aren’t normally going out and looking for things to penalize the public with,” he said.
Liescheidt asked why the proposal did not go through the Harford County Council and appears to be a done deal.
“I think this decision has already been made,” he said, asking why the meeting was at 2 p.m. on a Monday when people are working.
“Will our objections be of any benefit or is this an edict that’s going to go into effect whether we like it or not?” he asked.
Craig Lanphear, administrator of Swan Harbor Farm near Havre de Grace, wondered how this might affect the county-owned property he helps run, a well known venue for weddings and other private parties and events
Lanphear noted he had scheduled about 80 events through 2012 and said he was not sure if a ban on tobacco use might affect some of those contracts. The proposed tobacco-free environment rule and regulation drafted by Duvall is due to take effect Jan. 1, 2012; however, it contains a provision for the county to provide a designated smoking area outside any leased county facility that is under contract to be used prior to the ban taking effect.
Lanphear also asked how realistic it is to enforce the ban in all parts of the nearly 500-acre property and whether it might also affect people smoking in rental properties at the farm.
Pridgeon, who leads the Harford branch of Campaign for Liberty, said the ban is another example of government interference in people’s lives.
“Rules and regulations are exactly what is wrong with government in our lives today,” Pridgeon said, citing the example of a grandmother whose clothes were taken off by the Transportation Security Administration screeners and a ban on asthma inhalers elsewhere.
“We as Americans are constantly, quote unquote, ‘being protected’ by the government,” he continued. “We are tired of [members] of the government telling us what to do. We pay our taxes. Stay out of our lives.”
Mike Hiob, a county inspector and a former Aberdeen City Council member, said he thinks the majority of county employees and residents supports the ban.
Hiob said he has talked with county employees, and “most say they are in favor of this.”
He also asked the panel to consider that the people who come out to a hearing are likely to be part of the minority opposed to the idea.
Before the meeting, Chance, the county administration director, told the audience the county worked hard to find a policy that addresses everyone’s needs, as well as the health of county employees.
Afterward, Chance said the meeting was purposely scheduled during work hours so county employees could attend.
“We knew that this would be a semi-controversial issue,” she said, explaining the county is working with the health department.
The hearing does not seem likely to after the county administration’s plan to implement the tobacco ban.
“I feel that the county is going to move forward,” Chance said. “We want to be as flexible as possible with our parks facilities… I think it’s really critical to be flexible with it.”

Senators urge baseball to ban chewing tobacco

WASHINGTON – Four U.S. senators and health officials from the cities hosting the World Series are urging the baseball players union smokeless tobaccoto agree to a ban on chewing tobacco at games and on camera.
The senators, including No. 2 Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois, and health officials from St. Louis and Arlington, Texas, made the pleas in separate letters, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. The World Series between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals begins in St. Louis Wednesday night.
“When players use smokeless tobacco, they endanger not only their own health, but also the health of millions of children who follow their example,” the senators wrote to union head Michael Weiner. In addition to Durbin, the signers were fellow Democrats Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Senate health committee chairman of Tom Harkin of Iowa.
The senators noted that millions of people will tune in to watch the series, including children.
“Unfortunately, as these young fans root for their favorite team and players, they also will watch their on-field heroes use smokeless tobacco products,” they wrote. Smokeless tobacco includes chewing tobacco and dip.
With baseball’s current collective bargaining agreement expiring in December, the senators, some government officials and public health groups like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids want the players to agree to a tobacco ban in the next contract.
“Such an agreement would protect the health of players and be a great gift to your young fans,” the senators wrote.
Commissioner Bud Selig endorsed the ban in March, but the players union hasn’t committed to one. Weiner, who said in June that a “sincere effort” will be made to address the issue, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Some baseball players interviewed by The Associated Press last month were receptive to the idea, but others viewed a ban as an infringement on their freedom.
Meanwhile, the health officials from St. Louis and Arlington wrote in a letter to Weiner that with tobacco companies banned from advertising on TV, they “literally could not buy the ads that are effectively created by celebrity ballplayers using tobacco at games.”
The officials, Dr. Cynthia Simmons, the Public Health Authority for Arlington, and Pamela Walker, the St. Louis interim health director, urged players in the World Series to voluntarily abstain from using tobacco, in addition to calling for a permanent ban.
The Centers for Disease Control says that smokeless tobacco can cause cancer, oral health problems and nicotine addiction, and stresses it is not a safe alternative to smoking. Despite the risks, the CDC’s most recent survey found that in 2009, 15 percent of high school boys used smokeless tobacco — a more than one-third increase over 2003, when 11 percent did.

Smoking ban repeal ahead?

Four months after Kenton County became the first Northern Kentucky county to ban smoking inside most public establishments, the initial furor has died down, but neither side is satisfied.
Enforcement issues, exemptions and the lack of uniform rules with neighboring communities raise the question of whether a community can effectively ban smoking on its own. With Campbell and Boone counties allowing smoking and Ohio having a state ban, Kenton County’s ban has struggled to succeed and remains in the cross hairs of those opposed to it.
“Kenton County has what we consider a weak, or partial law,” said Ellen Hahn, an RN and a professor who directs the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy at the University of Kentucky. “The good news is more people are protected today than were four months ago. The bad news is there are still some people who are not protected.”
A leader of Northern Kentucky Choice – a group that says smoking restrictions infringe on the rights of businesses and property owners – says that organization will resume efforts to get Kenton County’s partial smoking ban repealed when elections for a new fiscal court take place about three years from now.
“I haven’t run any surveys, but some of the individual business owners I’ve talked to have said the smoking ban is having a negative impact on their bottom line,” said Ken Moellman Jr., a spokesman for Northern Kentucky Choice.
Moellman also said compliance with the required signage has been spotty, judging from what he’s observed while driving in the county.
With Kenton Fiscal Court deadlocked 2 to 2 on the smoking issue, Moellman says Northern Kentucky Choice’s only political option is to wait until the next county elections in 2014.
“There are already some plans in the works to try to get Kenton County’s smoking ban repealed a few years from now,” said Moellman, who prefers regulating smoking in public places strictly through signage. “This issue isn’t going to go away.”
Meanwhile, supporters of comprehensive smoke-free legislation say workers shouldn’t have to choose between their health and a paycheck.
Smoke-free Kentucky, a coalition of more than 100 organizations that says comprehensive, smoke-free laws are needed to protect employees and customers from the hazards of second-hand smoke, plans to continue lobbying for such laws in communities throughout the Commonwealth, in hopes of eventually getting a comprehensive smoke-free law for all of Kentucky, a state known for its strong tobacco legacy.
Thirty-one Kentucky communities have restricted smoking in public places since 2003, when Fayette County became the first to pass a law banning smoking in restaurants and other enclosed public spaces.
“Smoking is not only a health risk, it’s costing a lot of money,” Hahn said. “We spend over $1.7 billion a year in Kentucky to treat smoke-related diseases.”
Tristate public smoking laws are all over the map
Smoking in public places was banned by Ohio voters in 2006. Elsewhere in the Tristate, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels recently said support is growing in the Hoosier state for a statewide ban on smoking in public places.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study this spring that said it’s possible all workplaces, bars and restaurants in the country may be smoke-free by 2020. The report said Delaware was the first state to pass a comprehensive smoking ban in 2002. By the end of 2010, 25 other states followed the lead.
Others have passed less restrictive laws. Kentucky and Indiana are among the seven states that have no statewide restrictions in workplaces, bars and restaurants.
A Lexington lawmaker’s push to ban smoking in all of Kentucky’s indoor workplaces with at least one employee failed earlier this year when the bill was not acted on by the House Health & Welfare Committee. The measure is expected to be re-introduced in 2012.
“If more local communities adopt smoke-free laws, the state legislature is more likely to adopt a smoke-free law,” Hahn said. “It’s the same idea as the seat belt legislation. Local governments passed seat belt laws over time. Then there was more will to do something at the state level.”
Officials in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties initially considered comprehensive smoke-free legislation for Northern Kentucky’s public places, but they were unable to get consensus for a regional ordinance.
Boone County officials opted out of talks last summer. The outgoing Campbell Fiscal Court adopted comprehensive smoke-free legislation in December that banned smoking in places where the public is allowed. However, before that law could take effect, a newly-elected Fiscal Court repealed it.
In December, the outgoing Kenton Fiscal Court was unable to muster support for comprehensive smoke-free legislation, so it approved a compromise ordinance that took effect April 15 for some 5,500 public establishments.
Kenton County requires most public establishments, such as offices, churches, restaurants, bowling alleys, bingo halls and retail stores, to go smoke-free. However, private clubs and “drinking establishments” that meet certain requirements, including employing and serving customers over 18, can apply for an exemption. For the bar part of a restaurant, the bar has to be separate, with its own ventilation system and entrance, if smoking is allowed.
So far, nine warnings have been issued to offenders of Kenton County’s smoke-free ordinance, but no fines have been issued, according to the Northern Kentucky Health Department, which is charged with enforcing Kenton County’s smoke-free ordinance.
Under Kenton’s ordinance, a warning is issued to the business for the first offense. The second offense within a year brings a fine of $100 and a fine of $250 for each subsequent offense within the year.
People who smoke in an area where smoking is prohibited are subject to a $100 fine.
“All things considered, enforcement has gone quite smoothly,” said Dr. Lynne Saddler, director of the Northern Kentucky Health Department. “I think this can be attributed to strong efforts from our staff in advance of the ordinance and in its first few months. This included public education, clear messaging in our forms and website, and a common-sense approach in interactions with those falling under the ordinance’s requirements.”
After some initial confusion – especially over who qualified for exemptions – most public establishments were able to get the information they needed by contacting the health department, said Emily Gresham Wherle, spokeswoman for the Northern Kentucky Health Department. Last spring, a workshop to explain the new smoking restrictions was cancelled because of lack of interest.
However, both sides have questioned the effectiveness of Kenton County’s ordinance because of the number of exemptions granted. Of the 75 granted so far, five are for private clubs, and 70 are for “drinking establishments.” Of those, 63 are for establishments that employ and serve people over 18, three have a separate enclosed area for smoking, and four Covington businesses – the Anchor Grill, Willie’s Sports Cafe, Cock and Bull English Pub and Zazou Grill & Pub – are split-shift operations, meaning the establishments allow smoking half of the time and are smoke-free the other half. When smoking is permitted, only people older than 18 can be admitted.
“I guess the real trick is to try to figure out the economic impact on those businesses that were forced to change,” Moellman said.
Some businesses see change, others watching
Linda Kinsella, owner of the West Side Café in Newport, was a leader in last year’s fight against a comprehensive, indoor smoke-free ordinance for public places in that county. Since Kenton County’s partial smoking ban took effect, she says her business has increased.
“We picked up 20 to 25 customers a week from Covington, especially at night-time,” Kinsella said. “It was the same when Ohio’s smoking ban took effect. We picked up a few customers from Ohio, and the bars closer to the (Ohio) river picked up a lot more.”
Maggie Chasteen, a long-time cook/server at Covington Chili, said that establishment survived the Great Depression, but has seen its business “completely die down” since Kenton County’s compromise smoking ordinance took effect.
“Since Kenton County put its smoking law into effect, the majority of our customers have gone over to Campbell County,” Chasteen said. As an example, she said an 84-year-old customer who used to stop by Covington Chili “every other day to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee” now stops by once a month.
At Super Bowl of Erlanger, general manager Michele Colangelo is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“Our business was down this summer, but I think that’s because of the economy,” Colangelo said. “I meet with (owners of) bowling centers in other counties once a month, and they all say that business is down overall.”
Colangelo initially considered allowing smoking in part of her 64-lane bowling alley in Erlanger, but decided against it because the required renovations “wouldn’t be cost effective.”
She said that she’s booked four special events through next March, and added that many of her bowlers who were critical of the smoking restrictions before they took effect, now simply go outside and smoke by the urns she placed near Super Bowl’s entrances.
Colangelo said the true test will come in September, when representatives of bowling leagues must tell her whether they plan to return.
“Only one league has definitely stated that they won’t be back because of the smoking ban,” she said.
Hahn and advocates of comprehensive smoke-free legislation say air quality research in multiple communities by the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy has shown split shift smoking restrictions such as Kenton County allows, don’t protect the health of workers and customers because it can take one to two days to rid an indoor space of secondhand smoke.
Kenton County Commissioner Kris Knochelmann, the lone returnee from the previous fiscal court, said that he introduced the compromise smoking ordinance when it became apparent there weren’t enough votes on fiscal court to adopt comprehensive smoke-free legislation. He said he’s received one phone call and one email “on the negative side” and has had five to seven positive emails and close to 100 people who’ve approached him to express support for the ordinance that was ultimately adopted.
“As I said (in December), I’d rather have something rather than nothing,” Knochelmann said. “This is a reasonable compromise that will protect more employees and customers.”

Keys to effective smoking bans

As it stands now, Kentucky officials have the same problem enacting smoking restrictions as habitual smokers have quitting the habit.
They don’t quite have the will to go the whole way.
As today’s Forum story by Cindy Schroeder reveals, the partial smoking ban Kenton County enacted four months ago has been only marginally effective.
So far 74 establishments, mostly bars, have been granted exemptions. No fines have been levied against businesses that don’t comply. And health advocates say some of the law’s provisions, like a split-shift distinction that allows smoking in establishments half-time, don’t adequately protect workers or customers.
In a word, the ban is tentative. Its opponents say they’ll try to repeal it when a new fiscal court takes office in three years.
Still Kenton County has made more progress than Campbell County, which repealed a partial ban before it took effect, and Boone County, which shied away from establishing one.
Banning smoking in Kentucky, which trails only North Carolina as a tobacco producer, was never going to be easy.
Its annual harvest earns Bluegrass growers more than $370 million. Public opinion on smoking bans is evenly split. And one in three Kentuckians is a smoker, the highest percentage in the nation.
But agricultural revenues, public debate and human habit haven’t kept 25 states from enacting comprehensive smoking bans. Ohio is one of them. Ten more states, including North Carolina, forbid smoking in some public venues.
Last spring the Centers for Disease Control predicted that by 2020 all 50 states will have smoking bans in effect.
Kentucky, one of the last holdouts, is the one that can least afford to wait.
It has the highest per capita lung cancer rate in the nation, the highest overall cancer rate and spends $1.5 billion each year on smoking-related illnesses.
Across the commonwealth, 31 communities have already “gotten it”, bravely – and often contentiously – enacting partial bans. They deserve credit for showing leadership on a critical public health issue. But the result is a patchwork of regulations, and inconsistency in interpretation and enforcement.
All Kentuckians deserve the right to be protected from secondhand smoke. And business owners trying to do the right thing and abide by local regulations need to know there will be penalties for scofflaws.
The state needs to speak with one voice on this issue. While Gov. Steve Beshear drags his feet, waiting until he perceives “consensus,” Senate President and Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams is championing a statewide ban.
It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the only way to make this thing work.
Ohio’s four-year experience with a statewide ban has been impressive if imperfect. The state has not taken the economic hit doomsayers predicted, bars and restaurants have not closed en masse and most important, smoke-free environments have quickly become the new normal for Ohioans.
The ban, along with support for quit-smoking efforts, is credited with gradually lowering the state’s smoking rate. Now only a fifth of Ohioans smoke.
But new resolve and vigilance are clearly called for. The state has chomped away at anti-smoking funds, the crucial counterpart to the smoking ban that will get people not only to stop smoking in public places but to stop altogether.
In 2008, then-Gov. Ted Strickland and the legislature diverted millions from the state’s tobacco settlement fund to deal with a budget deficit. In similar straits, Gov. John Kasich and state lawmakers cut funding for the state’s quit-smoking hotline and proposed cutting $1 million from enforcement funds, although that funding was restored.
Meanwhile,the state has only collected a third of fines owed to it, with $1.77 million outstanding. And fine collection rates have dropped from better than 80 percent in 2007 to roughly a third last year.
In a positive move, the state has for the first time moved to deny a liquor license to a business – Peg’s Pub in Evendale – with substantial unpaid smoking fines.
A law not aggressively enforced is little better than no law at all. Collecting those fines should counterbalance what it costs the state for enforcement.
Seriousness of purpose, clarity about regulations and consistency of enforcement are the backbone of smart anti-smoking legislation. States that have embraced those approaches are seeing reductions in childhood asthma rates and some cardiovascular problems. Experts say bringing down the cancer rate will take more time but should ultimately happen. Predictions of large economic losses haven’t happened.
It’s hard to see a downside. That’s why the time to protect citizens and workers from secondhand smoke is now.
By John Kasich

San Antonio Housing Authority to ban smoking indoors and outdoor

To the list of places where smokers no longer will be able to light up — government buildings, parks, restaurants and bars — public housing residents in San Antonio soon will add one more: their own homes.
The San Antonio Housing Authority plans to impose a new policy in January that will prohibit residents from smoking indoors or away from designated outdoor spots at all 70 of its public sites.
The ban, which will affect about 15,800 residents, aims to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke and follows a growing nationwide trend to eliminate smoking at public housing authorities.
Since 2009, when the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a directive that “strongly” encouraged housing authorities to adopt nonsmoking policies, the number of agencies that have banned the practice has more than doubled to an estimated 250, according to the Smoke Free Environments Law Project, a Michigan nonprofit that tracks the number.
San Antonio will become the biggest housing authority in Texas and one of the largest in the country to adopt a smoking ban, joining other major agencies in Boston, Detroit, Portland and Seattle.
“It’s our responsibility to provide a living environment that’s healthy, safe and comfortable and, frankly, your neighbor’s smoke can often impair that,” said Melanie Villalobos, a spokeswoman for SAHA.
The no-smoking rule will debut here in August or September at the newly renovated Lewis Chatham Apartments, a single, four-story building for the elderly on the South Side.
SAHA’s other properties are expected to go smoke-free in January, but the details of how the new policy will work at each site, including the locations of designated smoking areas, remain undetermined.
Residents will be prohibited from smoking within about 20 feet of exterior doorways, and those who repeatedly violate the rule could face eviction.
The housing authority began putting out the word about the new policy earlier this year, opening the discussion at resident meetings and surveying tenants.
Later this month, the housing authority plans to launch an educational campaign about the hazards of smoking and secondhand smoke. Residents who want to quit the habit also can get free smoking-cessation aids such as patches and lozenges, provided through the agency’s partnership with the American Cancer Society.
The housing authority put off a planned start date in July after studying how other agencies had dealt with the issue. Among the most important lessons was that residents were more agreeable to the change if they had time to prepare and received health information.
“The education campaign is the most important part,” said Lori Mendez, the housing director for the elderly and disabled who has spearheaded the effort. “Residents need to understand the expectations.”
Kids exposed to smoke
Many residents have yet to hear about the change, but so far the new policy has inspired a mix of strong support, ambivalence and anger.
A survey sent to all 6,029 households in January shows that a large majority of tenants support the no-smoking policy. Of the 200 residents who responded, 81 percent said they liked the idea, while 17 percent opposed it, and 2 percent said they had no opinion.
In some cases, smokers decried what they view as a violation of their rights.
“This is my house even though I’m receiving help from SAHA, and I should be able to smoke in my own home if I want to,” one resident wrote.
Another resident who smokes on the balcony suggested forcing residents to go outside would put them at risk.
“It’s dangerous enough at daytime. Understand that you will be putting people’s lives in danger,” the tenant wrote.
But many cheered the idea, and some smokers even welcomed the change as an inducement to help them quit.
Recent studies have shown secondhand smoke migrates into apartments through vents and air ducts.
According to a study published online in the medical journal Pediatrics in December, children who live in multifamily housing are exposed to secondhand smoke at greater levels than children living in detached houses, even in cases when no one smoked in their apartment.
The surgeon general has ruled that no level of exposure to tobacco smoke is safe. Every year, secondhand smoke causes an estimated 46,000 deaths from heart disease among non-smoking adults in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And about 3,400 adults who don’t smoke die annually from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke, the agency says.
In public housing, the benefits of smoke-free homes may be more pronounced. Low-income children face higher rates of asthma and about 30 percent of adults smoke, compared with about 20 percent of those who live above the poverty level, said Donna White, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Nationally, public housing is home to more than 1.2 million residents, including large numbers of children and elderly, with about 39 percent of tenants younger than 18, and 15 percent older than 62.
Rey Ramirez, president of the resident council at Westway Apartments on Culebra Road, said his elderly grandmother, who suffered from severe asthma and used an oxygen tank, had to contend with heavy secondhand smoke from a downstairs neighbor before she left the apartments because of health troubles.
“You can smell it — it’s very, very strong,” Ramirez said. “It’s just common sense to get rid of it.”
Smoke-free trend
The crackdown in public housing coincides with a stricter anti-smoking city ordinance that takes effect in August and prohibits smoking in all bars, restaurants and public places, including parks and bus stops.
It also comes at a time of increasingly aggressive public health initiatives launched by Mayor Julián Castro, who has overseen the city’s new B-cycle bike share program and created a Fitness Council to look at new ways to encourage healthy living and spend $15.6 million in federal stimulus funds intended to reduce childhood obesity.
The national trend to go smoke-free in public housing puts agencies like SAHA at the forefront of a broader movement to take the fight against tobacco smoke into the private sphere.
Consumer demand for nonsmoking homes continues to rise, and more private landlords are learning that smoking bans make good business sense, said Jim Bergman, director of Smoke-Free Environments Law Project.
“Apartment owners are now recognizing that nonsmokers make up 80 (percent) to 85 percent of the adult population, and many smokers also don’t smoke in their apartments because they don’t want their clothes to smell,” Bergman said.
In recent years, about 10 to 15 local governments in California have joined the movement, banning smoking in private apartment developments in their municipalities, he said.
California is the only state where local governments have adopted such ordinances. In Texas, few private landlords — less than 5 percent by Bergman’s estimate — have gone to smoke-free apartments.
Health benefits for residents are the driving force behind the new restrictions, but non-smoking policies also reduce the risk of fires and offer financial perks.
Housing authorities can save more than six times the turnover costs to clean stained walls and window blinds and repair ducts and carpets damaged by cigarettes, according to a 2009 poll of housing authorities by Smoke-Free Housing New England. The cost of rehabilitating a nonsmoking unit is about $560, compared with about $1,810 for a light smoking unit and $3,515 where there was heavy smoking, the poll found.
But not everyone is convinced the housing authority will see much savings or success with the policy.

Smoking policy blogger questions study on Kanawha ban

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The conclusions drawn by the authors of a recent study conducted by the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department that links indoor smoking bans to a decrease in hospital admissions for heart attacks “flies in the face of logic,” said a Boston University professor and smoking policy blogger.
“The most interesting thing is that the study doesn’t conclude what it actually finds,” said Dr. Michael Siegel, professor of Community Health Sciences at Boston University School of Public Health.
Siegel, author of the blog “The Rest of the Story: Tobacco News Analysis and Commentary,” posted a review earlier this month of the Kanawha County study.
In June, researchers with the Health Department and the West Virginia University Prevention Research Center linked a 37 percent decline in the heart attack hospitalization rate from 2000 to 2008 to a countywide smoking ban in the study, “Clean Indoor Air Regulation and Incidence of Hospital Admissions for Acute Coronary Syndrome in Kanawha County, West Virginia.”
The study was published in the online medical journal Preventing Chronic Disease and also was posted to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Preventing Chronic Disease Public Health Research, Practice and Policy website.
The only major change that took place during the study’s time period from 2000 to 2008 was the county’s revision of its smoking ban in 2004 to remove smoking sections in all restaurants and most work places, Siegel said in an interview with the Gazette last week.
“The study and the results show there was a consistent decline in heart attacks during that entire period,” Siegel said. “It was gradually going down, and it just continued going down at the same rate [after the start of the 2004 smoking ban].
“What I would have to conclude from this data is that the smoking ban would seem to have no effect in the rate of heart attack admissions in the county.”
Siegel instead attributes the steady decline to improvements in preventive care, medication and technology to treat heart disease.
“If you look almost anywhere in the United States during this time period, heart disease is declining,” Siegel said. “If they would have found anything other than a decline, I would have been shocked, because that’s the general trend everywhere.”
The authors of the study — Dr. Rahul Gupta, head of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, Anita Ray of county Health Department and Robert Anderson and Juhua Luo of WVU’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center — were unavailable for comment Friday.
The aim of the study, as stated by the authors’ published report, was to monitor the rate of heart attack admissions during an eight-year period in a community with existing clean indoor air regulations.
Kanawha County in 1995 implemented its clean indoor air regulation that banned smoking in most public places, including retail stores, elevators, restrooms, public transportation systems, waiting areas and public meeting areas, such as school buildings.
The ordinance exempted bars and allowed restaurants to designate up to half of their seating as smoking sections.
In 2000, the ordinance was modified to increase penalties for violations, and revised again in 2004 to remove smoking sections in restaurants and other public indoor areas.
Siegel argues the 1995 ordinance that allowed designated smoking sections was not strong enough to protect the public from the hazards of secondhand smoke.
“Even if someone was to make the argument that this 50 percent smoking ordinance had an effect on heart attacks, [you would] have to go back to data before 1995 to see the rate before the ordinance was put in effect,” Siegel said.
“If heart disease from 1990 to 1995 had been going up, and then from 1995 to 2008 it was going down, that might be a different story. But they don’t go back to 1990, so how can they possibly draw a conclusion from the effect of the ordinance?” he said.
The authors of the study do state in their findings that no significant changes were recorded “between, before and after the removal of smoking areas in restaurants,” in 2004.
The heart attack admission rate steadily dropped by about 6 percent a year among women, nonsmokers and people without diabetes, according to the study.
“Although this decline may not be conclusively linked directly to the [Clean Indoor Air Regulation], a significant benefit in the rate of [Acute Coronary Syndrome] admissions for male smokers occurred after the regulations were strengthened in 2004 to remove all smoking areas from restaurants,” the authors of the study state in the report.
Following the 2004 changes, heart attack admissions among male smokers decreased by about 7 percent a year, from 842 patients admitted to Kanawha County hospitals in 2004 to 664 reported in 2000. Prior to 2004, no changes over time were recorded in this population segment, the report states.
“I do want to emphasize that the rationale for passing smoking bans doesn’t hinge on whether or not it decreases the rate of heart disease,” Siegel said. “Even if there is no immediate decline in heart attacks, that doesn’t mean they should repeal the whole thing.”
Siegel does not question that secondhand smoke increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease by up to 30 percent but said the Kanawha County report tries to draw a conclusion too soon.
It can take decades for a smoker or a person exposed to secondhand smoke to develop heart disease, he said.
“Do I think smoking bans will eventually result in a decline in heart attacks? Absolutely,” Siegel said. “If you reduce that exposure over time, you are going to reduce the number of heart attacks. But are you going to see it over four years?”
Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in West Virginia, according to the American Heart Association.
West Virginia is tied with Kentucky for the nation’s highest smoking rate, at about 26.5 percent, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Charleston was ranked first and Huntington third on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index’s list of cities with the highest proportion of smokers.
By Veronica Nett
[email protected]

Navajo lawmakers take up smoking ban measure

Navajo lawmakers are revisiting a smoking ban on the reservation with a bill that would exempt tribal casinos at least until their financing debts are paid off.
The ban would apply to smoking and chewing tobacco in all other public places across the 27,000 square-mile reservation but does not limit the use of tobacco in traditional ceremonies.
A committee made up of the 24 tribal lawmakers has endorsed the measure but the formal vote will come during the Navajo Nation Council’s summer session that starts Monday in Window Rock. Another version of the bill not currently on the council’s agenda does not allow tobacco use at any casino.
That’s the one Navajo President Ben Shelly would support, not the one tailored to casino interests, his spokeswoman said.
“We are aiming to protect our people’s health,” said Charmaine Jackson. “And all Navajo Nation workers should be able to breathe clean air and work in an environment free of tobacco smoke.”
The tribe’s gaming czar, Robert Winter, sees the measure lawmakers have on their agenda as a good compromise to limit second-hand smoke and address poverty on the reservation.
Winter said gaming officials have agreed to filter the air at casinos and designate most of the casino as smoke-free. Smoking would be allowed only at some slot machines, table games, and in outdoor areas and golf courses. No one would have to walk through a smoking area to get in or out of the buildings.
The tribe’s gaming enterprise expects to pay off its estimated $200 million debt for a handful of operating and planned casinos in about seven years, Winter said. At that point, the Tribal Council could decide whether to extend the smoking ban to the gaming facilities, according to the bill.
“We’re relying on council to look at this in a very balanced way,” Winter said. “It’s council who voted for and passed the statute to create the gaming enterprise. That requires us to maximize the gaming economy and do everything possible to hire Navajos. Poverty is a public health issue as well.”
Delegates on the previous Tribal Council failed to override a presidential veto of a billed that would have banned smoking and chewing tobacco on the reservation. Former Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. said at the time that he feared it would inhibit gambling revenue. The tribe operates two casinos in New Mexico and has broken ground on its largest casino east of Flagstaff that Winter said won’t be built if a smoking ban includes casinos.
The bill wouldn’t prohibit commercial tobacco sales on the reservation that are taxed by the tribe.
Anti-smoking advocates acknowledge that commercial tobacco use is not an overwhelming problem on the reservation but say they want to be proactive. They cite a 2008 Navajo youth survey that found almost one-fifth of middle school students said they smoked cigarettes or cigars, or used chewing tobacco within the past 30 days.
They contend that not even the best air filtration system is enough to keep people from being affected by second-hand smoke.
Shelly began advocating for a smoking ban early in his administration with an executive order that was found to be legally insufficient. He has since received awards, including one from the Indian Health Service, for his stance.
Jackson wouldn’t say whether Shelly would veto the smoking ban with an exemption for casinos if passed by the council. He would have 10 days once it reaches his desk to make a decision.
“We’ll wait until that time comes to see what the president does,” she said.
The council has three other items on its summer session agenda, including a bill to approve lease agreements between the Navajo Nation and a coal mining company that operates on the reservation.