The U.S. Surgeon General has definitely stated that there is no safe level of secondhand exposure. In the U.S. it causes tens of thousands of deaths from lung cancer and coronary heart disease every year. Fortunately, the Freedom to Breathe Act protects the vast majority of Minnesotans from secondhand smoke in public places since 2007.
In 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General stated definitively that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. A new Surgeon General’s report that year showed that secondhand smoke causes heart disease, cancer and other illnesses, including many that affect children. The report stated that secondhand smoke exposure was responsible at that time for more than annual 49,000 deaths nationwide.
But October 1, 2007, brought us a breath of fresh air. On that day, all Minnesota workplaces, including bars and restaurants, became smoke-free with the Freedom to Breathe Act of 2007, a comprehensive statewide law that provides protections from secondhand smoke to the vast majority of workers in our state.
Research shows how Minnesota is benefiting from Freedom to Breathe. The University of Minnesota found an 85 percent decrease in tobacco-specific carcinogens in the bodies of hospitality workers, who were the individuals most affected by workplace smoking before the law. A Mayo Clinic study also found substantial decreases in heart attacks following the law.
Additional studies show a drop of 11 percentage points in overall secondhand-smoke exposure, as well as more people — including smokers — voluntarily making their homes smoke-free. And other studies by the University found that employment levels in Minnesota bars and restaurants actually remained stable after going smoke-free.
And a poll from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota in 2014 found that 87 percent of Minnesotans support the law – an increase from 77 percent in 2008.
Unfortunately, too many Minnesotans are still exposed to secondhand smoke in too many places. We support efforts to reduce that exposure across the state, and in recent years we have seen successful efforts to make new spaces, including college campuses, multi-unit housing and daycare and foster homes, smoke-free.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices used to inhale nicotine and other chemicals. Several Minnesota cities have restricted their sale and use, and state lawmakers have proposed adding them to the Freedom to Breathe Act.
At ClearWay MinnesotaSM, we support efforts to include these products in public policies that apply to cigarettes. There is not yet a body of evidence on the effects of using or being around e-cigarettes, and allowing an unknown substance to be used in indoor public places would be a step backwards for clean air. We also know that e-cigarettes are sold in candy and fruit flavors that are proven to have appeal for youth.
A poll funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota in February of 2014 found that Minnesotans strongly support including e-cigarettes in policies that restrict smoking in public places. Seventy-nine percent said they support prohibiting e-cigarette use in places where smoking is already banned. The poll also found that 98 percent of Minnesotans support prohibiting e-cigarette sales to minors, and 87 percent feel e-cigarettes should be kept behind the counter in stores.