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.