WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Health advocates are calling on all Virginia restaurants and other workplaces to go completely smoke-free following the release of a landmark report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) that concluded smoke-free laws reduce the number of heart attacks and save lives.
The IOM report, released Thursday, also found that there is conclusive evidence that secondhand smoke causes heart disease and heart attacks, and there is compelling evidence that even relatively brief exposure to secondhand smoke may cause heart attacks. The IOM is one of the most prestigious scientific authorities in the U.S. and part of the National Academy of Sciences.
Virginia, on December 1, will implement a new law that restricts smoking, but allows restaurants to have separately ventilated smoking rooms. Health advocates said the IOM report underscores why restaurants should go completely smoke-free, rather than creating smoking rooms, so they do not put the health of any employees or customers at risk by subjecting them to hazardous secondhand smoke.
"This new report is a powerful reminder that it is unacceptable for any worker or customer to be subjected to secondhand smoke," said Amy Barkley, Tobacco States and Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "No one should have to put themselves at risk of a heart attack, lung cancer or the other serious diseases caused by secondhand smoke in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out. Virginia restaurants should seize the opportunity to protect the health of their workers and customers by going completely smoke-free."
Health advocates also called on Virginia officials to effectively enforce the new law and provide information to businesses about the health hazards of secondhand smoke and how to go smoke-free.
"Health advocates urge officials to successfully enforce the new law and give all Virginians the right to breathe clean air," said Keenan Caldwell, Government Relations State Director for the American Cancer Society in Virginia. "Across the country, a growing number of states and communities have proven that smoke-free laws are very popular with the public, easy to implement and protect health without harming business. It's time for all Virginia restaurants and workplaces to join this movement and go completely smoke-free."
Even before this IOM report, there was already conclusive evidence that secondhand smoke causes death and disease, while smoke-free laws protect health and save lives. As the U.S. Surgeon General stated in issuing a groundbreaking report on secondhand smoke in June 2006, "The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults."
Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 carcinogens. The Surgeon General found that secondhand smoke causes heart disease, lung cancer, serious respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. The Surgeon General also found that secondhand smoke is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year, there is no safe level of exposure and smoke-free laws protect health without harming business.
The IOM's conclusions that smoke-free laws prevent heart attacks and that even short-term exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to a heart attack add significantly to the Surgeon General's report. The IOM report was requested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the wake of a growing number of studies in smoke-free localities, states and countries that found reductions in heart attack rates after smoke-free laws are implemented. After reviewing 11 such studies in the United States, Canada, Scotland and Italy and a multitude of other scientific studies examining the relationship between secondhand smoke and cardiovascular disease, an IOM committee of scientific experts reached the following conclusions:
- "The committee concludes that there is a causal relationship between smoking bans and decreases in acute coronary events."
- "The evidence reviewed by the committee is consistent with a causal relationship between secondhand-smoke exposure and acute coronary events, such as acute MI (myocardial infarction)."
- "The committee concludes that it is biologically plausible for a relatively brief exposure to secondhand smoke to precipitate an acute coronary event." According to the report, experimental studies have found that secondhand smoke exposure causes adverse changes in the cardiovascular system that increase the risk of a heart attack.
In the U.S., 27 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have passed smoke-free laws that cover all restaurants and bars, without loopholes or exceptions. The states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina (Jan. 2, 2010), Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota (on hold pending resolution of litigation), Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin (July 5, 2010).
The Institute of Medicine is part of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The report and related materials can be found at www.iom.edu.
SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids