Statewide Smoking Ban Legislation has Support of Mississippi Health OfficerBy Lawayne Childrey | Published 27 Jan 2011 03:28pm |
Every year, nearly 600 nonsmokers in Mississippi die from exposure to second hand smoke. MPB's Lawayne Childrey examines a bill making its way through the senate that could prohibit smoking in all public buildings.
A bill passed by the Mississippi Senate Public Health Committee this week bans smoking in government buildings but not restaurants, casinos or other public facilities. State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier says without a wide spread smoking ban, Mississippi, which already leads the nation in heart disease, high blood pressure and other smoking related illnesses will continue down a slippery slope.
“Smoking itself and second hand smoke increase your risk right now as you’re being exposed to the smoke. It’s an acute problem. Places that have in place a smoke free air policy actually see a decrease in the number of people who come into their emergency rooms with heart attacks.”
While Currier says there is no safe level of exposure to cigarette smoke. She says even brief exposure to secondhand smoke is harmful.
"We allow people over 21 to drink and they can drink themselves to a comma if they want to. But we don't allow them to get into a car and drive because that does expose other people to danger. We're asking the same thing for smokers. People are free to smoke in their private space and in most outdoor spaces but please don't expose other folks to that risk of long term cancer and heart disease."
Studies show that separating smokers from nonsmokers does not eliminate the health risks. That's why Kym Hughes with the American Cancer Society is urging lawmakers to enact a widespread smoking ban on all public buildings.
"Even the majority of smokers support this. They don't want to work in a place that allows smoking. They definitely know the harm that it’s doing to their bodies but a lot of smokers don't want their children and grand children to smoke much less be around the smoke."
The bill now moves to the full Senate where it could be changed to include all public buildings. Standing outside a Jackson office building 20 year smoker Carol Jenkins says she doesn't like the legislation.
“They give us designated areas to smoke in and if you don’t smoke and don't wanna be around it that’s your choice.”
Studies show that nearly 80% of Mississippians including smokers support tougher smoking regulations. Lawayne Childrey MPB News.
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