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Supporters of An Indoor Smoking Ban See Progress

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 20 Jan 2013 01:58pm | comments

Mississippi health experts are again pushing for a state-wide indoor smoking ban. Efforts to pass a ban in previously legislatures have failed. But, as MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports, smoking-ban advocates believe the tide could be turning in their favor.

The Mississippi State Medical Association is making an indoor smoking ban in Mississippi its top public health goal.

State Health Officer Mary Currier says Mississippi ranks at the bottom of nearly every health statistics, but passing an indoor smoking ban could lead to immediate public health improvements.

"With a comprehensive smoke free air law, almost immediately we would have a 25, on average, percent decrease in cardiovascular events. In other words heart attacks that lead to hospitalization in this state. And not only would that save lives and save families, but it would save money for this state," Currier said.

Anti-smoking advocates and doctors have been pushing for an indoor smoking ban for years and had little success in the Mississippi legislature.

Senate Public Health Committee chairman Dean Kirby of Pearl expects that there will again be little traction this year.

"And I don't like to play big brother. I don't like looking over people's shoulder and telling them what to do and what not to do when they are only hurting themselves and not hurting other people," Kirby said.

Dr. Steve Demetropoulos with the medical association believes the legislature's opinioncould change.

He says the increasing number of Mississippi cities with anti-smoking laws could weaken resistance.

"We have also tried to address the barrier, I guess it is more the libertarian argument that 'I don't want to tell someone what they can do with their business'. We have tried to demonstrate that we already tell you what you can do with your business. This is just one more little step so we can protect people who aren't smokers from second hand smoke," Demetropoulos said.

More than 60 Mississippi cities have indoor smoking bans, which cover only a quarter of the population in the state.

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