View Full Version : Clean Indoor Air Act is a success in New York

07-24-2004, 09:51 AM
Guest Viewpoint: Clean Indoor Air Act is a success

One year ago, lifesaving legislation was passed which protects all New York workers from the effects of second-hand tobacco smoke.

A few weeks ago, the Clean Indoor Air Act survived an amendment proposal from Utica area legislators that would allow bars, billiard parlors and bowling alleys to permit smoking if they installed a special filter. Thankfully, the amendment was not passed and we can continue to enjoy smoke-free air.

As a pulmonologist who spends a significant amount of time treating lung diseases precipitated by cigarette smoke, I emphatically objected to the proposed changes in the law with knowledge of the substantiated link between second-hand smoke and cancer, chronic air flow obstruction, respiratory infections and arteriosclerosis. Innocent bystanders should not be put "at risk" by environmental tobacco smoke.

With regard to the issue of Clean Indoor Air, consider:

* The Clean Indoor Act is a success. Locally over 85 percent of those polled in recent surveys say they will visit bars and restaurants as much or more now that they are smoke free.

A newspaper in Glens Falls, the Post-Star, conducted a one-question survey of public opinion, asking if the Clean Indoor Air Act should be weakened. Results as of June 8 were that 73 percent favored keeping the act as it is.

* 93 percent of area businesses have complied with the legislation.

* New York reports that air pollution levels in bars has dropped 93 percent. Preliminary results of a state Health Department study released in March indicated that the saliva of 49 bar and restaurant workers contained 85 percent less cotinine, a nicotine byproduct, three months after the state prohibited workplace smoking.

* No feasible ventilation system can reduce second-hand smoke to safe levels. The tobacco industry admits it makes no health claims about the effectiveness of the ventilation.

* Lung cancer mortality rates (lung cancer deaths per 100,000 persons) for Broome County residents exceed the state norms by 13 percent for males and 9 percent for females. In 2002, there were 139 lung cancer deaths in Broome County.

At least 62,000 American non-smokers will die this year from heart disease, cancer and lung disease caused by exposure to second-hand smoke. That is more than those who will die from auto accidents, and approximately equal to the combined populations of Binghamton and Johnson City.

It is impossible to filter all the carcinogens from the air. Furthermore, filtration systems are not designed to remove a continuous discharge of pollutants. As Don Distasio, CEO of the American Cancer Society, noted recently, "Air filtration devices are called state-of-the-art by their manufacturers, but the fact is there is no device that can take all of the cancer-causing chemicals in second-hand smoke out of the air we breathe. Just as a filter on the end of a cigarette doesn't protect you from cancer, neither can a filter at the end of a bar."

Non-smokers compose about 76 percent of the population. We are the silent majority but we cannot be silent any longer. The facts are clear. I applaud the Broome/Tioga P.R.E.V.E.N.T. Coalition, TEAM Act and Reality Check for their ongoing efforts to ensure clean indoor air for all of us.

Richard J. Baron, M.D., is clinical assistant professor, Department of Medicine, Upstate Medical University.