News & Events: Member Articles

Ohio Becoming Closer to Being Smoke Free
By Michael Stark, MD

Rich from Oregon, Ohio writes on the SmokeFreeOhio web site that he knows how deadly secondhand smoke can be. “My older brother died at the age of 38 because of cancer of the tongue, jaw and neck, caused by secondhand smoke exposure. He never smoked himself, but was around secondhand smoke most of his like. …I had throat and lung cancer. I survived, but I had to have a laryngectomy.” Nick from Lima writes, “The thing I hate about going to the clubs is the smoke. Recently I went to a club in Toledo where it was smoke-free. It was amazing I was able to dance without breathing in the secondhand smoke and leaving the club smelling like I did when I first went in.”

SmokeFreeOhio is a campaign dedicated to the passage of a statewide law eliminating smoking in all public places. The American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, the Ohio Health Commissioners Association, the Ohio State Medical Association, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, and over 170 other supporting organizations sponsor this cause.

On November 17, 2005 Ohio took a giant step toward becoming smoke free. Over 165,000 signatures were delivered to the Secretary of State that asks the Ohio Legislature to place an issue on the state-wide ballot in November 2006 to make Ohio totally smoke free in public places.

“Every Ohio has the right to breathe clean indoor air, and every Ohio should have the right to vote on it, said Tracy Sabetta, spokesperson for SmokeFreeOhio. “We have the signatures of 165,00 Ohio voters who want a chance to vote on this strong, statewide, clean indoor air law.”

It is well known that secondhand smoke causes many illnesses. Tobacco related illnesses have been reported in people who have been exposed to secondhand smoke who have never smoked. Several states and cities and counties in the United States have passed clean air acts. The entire state of California bans smoking in all public places. Two years ago the entire county of Ireland banned smoking in all public places. Recent reports from Ireland show a decrease in respiratory problems since the clean air act went into effect. 21 cities in Ohio have passed laws to protect citizens from secondhand smoke. SmokeFreeOhio states that only a statewide law can protect all Ohioans.

Lima, Ohio native, Katharine Hammond, PhD, who is professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of California Berkley, proved that occupational exposure to tobacco toxins are highest in businesses that allow smoking in the work place (Journal of the American Medical Association 274:956-960, 1995). This work was used to study respiratory problems in bartenders in San Francisco. When California became smoke-free, bartenders had fewer respiratory problems (Journal of the American Medical Association 280:1909-1914, 1998). A study from Australia showed that non-smoking areas in public places that allow smoking offers minimal protection to the non-smoking public. This protection from secondhand smoke is less than the public expects and is certainly much less protection than in places that have no smoking (Tobacco Control 13:17-22, 2004).

The proposed law can be found on the SmokeFreeOhio web site. In order for this proposed law to take effect, the Ohio Legislature can certify it to be placed on the November 2006 Ohio ballot as written. If the Legislature does not do this, the people of Ohio can directly place it on the ballot by collecting an additional 96,780 certified signatures. These signatures must be from different people who signed the original petitions. If needed, this signature gathering will take place in May 2006. When either the above happens, all Ohioans will have the chance to vote on the statewide clean air act on November 7, 2006.

The physicians of The Academy of Medicine of Toledo and Lucas County are strong supporters of this proposal. Many physicians were involved in collecting signatures last year. If more signatures need to be collected, the physicians in the Academy of Medicine will have petitions in their offices for their patients to sign. The Academy position is that “We want all Ohioans to have easy access to helping in the effort of protecting all from secondhand smoke. Together, the public and their doctors can make this happen.”

Michael Stark, M.D.
Academy of Medicine of Toledo and Lucas County