Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 20, 2012

Forum: Smoking ban is good for health, state

By Jim Harrington
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---- — The American Lung Association in Michigan is disappointed that Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, and the Michigan Senate took action to undermine enforcement of the wildly popular Dr. Ron Davis Smoke-free Air Law. By doing so they jeopardized the health of Michigan workers. A recent surgeon general's report indicated there is no safe level of second-hand smoke exposure due to serious immediate and long-term health effects.

Unfortunately, Sen. Walker chose to use a charity as a tool to undermine a law to which he is philosophically opposed. Does Sen. Walker realize that the lower-income people who the charity serves smoke at a much higher rate than anyone else in Michigan and that many lower-income people also work in food service industry?

Second-hand smoke is a poisonous combination of over 5,000 chemicals, and a proven cause of heart attacks and strokes. Michigan workers should not have to compromise their heath to earn a paycheck.

Any attempt to weaken the law is an attempt to undo it altogether. Those who are seeking to undo our popular smoke-free workplace law (74 percent approval rating) seem focused on taking us back decades to the days when we were unaware of the terrible consequences of exposure to secondhand smoke.

What they are proposing would once again deny Michigan's citizens their right to breathe healthy, smoke-free air in public places. Common sense should tell us that people should not be exposed to a proven cause of heart disease.

There is ample evidence documenting the fact that the law is working as intended to protect employee health. Air studies conducted to measure air quality in 78 Michigan restaurants before and after the law took effect found that while 85 percent of the restaurants had poor to dangerous air quality pre-law, 93 percent of these restaurants had good to very good air quality after the law was implemented.

A study conducted among participants working in Michigan bars before and after the law took effect demonstrated a significant decrease in mean cotinine levels among these workers post-law. Cotinine is a biomarker found in urine that measures levels of exposure to second-hand smoke. These same workers reported significant improvement in general health status and decreased respiratory symptoms after the law was in effect.

Let's keep a level playing field and protect all workers.

Economic studies demonstrate that the law is working well. According to the Michigan Department of Treasury, during the first year of the smoke-free law the hospitality industry saw an increase in sales of more than 6 percent over the previous year. The industry as a whole is doing better today than it did in the two years before the law was passed. Air quality is improved. Levels of contaminants in workers' bodies have decreased. Even the economic data is positive.

Unfortunately, opponents would have you believe otherwise. We don't buy their argument "¦ the law is good for health and good for Michigan.

About the author: Jim Harrington is a field organizer for the American Lung Association in Michigan.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.