Secondhand smoke is a problem world-wide. In Colorado, we are fortunate to have so many smoking bans when it comes to smoking in public. However, the Southern states are lacking in public smoking bans. “According to a federal government report, there are no U.S. Southeast states with comprehensive smoke-free laws” (WebMD).
From 2000 to 2010, 26 states including the District of Columbia added comprehensive smoke-free laws. Since 2010, only two more states have added these laws. “Almost 60% of the U.S. is covered by comprehensive smoke-free laws. Of the 23 states without comprehensive smoke-free laws, 14 of them protect some residents with local anti-smoking laws” (WebMD). In West Virginia, 60% of people are protected by local laws, and roughly 30% of people in Kentucky, Texas and South Carolina. In Georgia, only 2.4% of people are covered and less than 1% in Arkansas and Wyoming.
Secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer and heart disease, which combined, kills over 41,000 U.S. nonsmokers annually. The best way to get rid of second hand smoke is to eliminate smoking indoors everywhere. It’s much easier to avoid someone smoking on the sidewalk versus at a dinner table next to you. Even the smallest encounter with secondhand smoke has health risks, especially for those with asthma or those who suffer from irritants such as smoke.
Adding comprehensive smoke-free laws would greatly improve the air quality indoors. It may encourage those to try and quit, and it may become less common for teens and young adults to begin smoking. It may also help improve the health of those who experience secondhand smoke from indoor places. This can greatly help them with asthma flare ups from smoke exposure and heart attacks. Smoke-free laws also sometimes include other forms of tobacco such as e-cigarettes. “There are seven states that have included e-cigarettes in their smoke-free laws: Oregon, Utah, California, Hawaii, New Jersey, North Dakota and Delaware” (WebMD).
If you currently live in a state without comprehensive smoke-free laws and you experience health issues from secondhand smoke, there are a few actions you can take to minimize problems. If you know there are certain places with local smoke-free laws, try to frequent them versus other places. If you see people outside on the sidewalk smoking, try to walk around them to avoid coming in contact with the smoke. Also, always bring your inhaler with you (if you have one), just in case you come in contact with smoke. You never know if a flare up or attack will occur, but it’s important to always be prepared.