Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ban Smoking in St. Louis

Public smoking is an unnecessary harm and disadvantage to the people of the St. Louis area who wish to live in a healthy, smoke-free environment. Every resident is entitled to entertainment and recreational activities without the risk of second-hand smoking. Therefore, I strongly support a ban on smoking in public places and workplaces of the St. Louis City and the surrounding counties.

Numerous studies show the harmful effects of smoking and more keep coming, yet local and state governments in the United States seem hesitant to take any decisive action. For example, a study posted in the newsletter of the Tobacco-Free MO Greater St. Louis coalition found that in addition to children living in a house with someone who smokes, developing asthma or respiratory infections, they are also more likely to develop numerous other infectious diseases such as meningococcal disease. The study also showed that children who were closer to public areas where people could smoke were more likely to be hospitalized. Families should have the ability to go out to places without having to worry of an exposure to second hand smoking. The smoker is hurting not only himself but the numerous others around him as well. Second-hand smoke is literally the 3rd largest cause of preventable deaths in the U.S., as smoke contains 69 different cancer-causing chemicals.

Tobacco companies claim a host of possibilities for economic ruin if bars and other public restaurants were made smoke free, but studies actually show the opposite. Reports from the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group and the Vic-Health Centre for Tobacco Control in Australia both found that there was no negative impact or local business economic downturn from smoke-free policies. This was also shown in Washington whose bar businesses were up 20% in 2007 over their mere 0.3% gain in 2006, allowing for no bad economic impact and the good health impact. Economically speaking, smoking actually WASTES more of the state's much-needed money. In Missouri, for example, the tobacco industry spends about $337.8 million simply marketing for products. Not only is the effect toward health, but smoking has also been seen to cause worker productivity losses in Missouri. Other states show this effect as well, such as Florida, which spends $20 million each year, about $7000 per smoker.

Not only has smoking been shown numerous times to be deadly and unnecessary, but effectiveness of smoking bans have been empirically proven. The European Society of Cardiology published figures from France and Italy which showed that after smoking bans were put into effect, there was a 15% decrease in emergency admissions of patients with heart attack and stroke.

Putting smoking bans into effect in the St. Louis area will be a blessing to the numerous families who want no part in exposure to smoke. These bans, however, will actually help the smokers as well. The examples are numerous. Helena, Montana experienced a 60% DROP in heart attack admissions in local hospitals after a public building smoking ban was enacted. After New York State imposed a higher tax on cigarettes and banned smoking in workplaces, adult smoking dropped 19% in New York City, translating to 240,000 fewer adult smokers.

Do the right thing for St. Louis in supporting a ban on smoking in public places and workplaces throughout the St. Louis City and county areas. You will be doing a favor to smoker and non-smoker alike.