Working to Keep the Centennial State’s Air Clean Since 2006
Definition of Secondhand Smoke: Unwanted smoke that people breathe in from cigarettes that other people are smoking. It’s also known as passive smoking.
The Surgeon General’s 1964 whitepaper report on smoking and health was the first study of its kind to be released to the general public. Since then, more than 20,000,000 US citizens have died as a result of a tobacco and nicotine habit. Whereas most of those deaths represented adults who had regular smoking habits, 2.5 million people who had never smoked in their lives died from lung cancer and heart disease attributed to secondhand smoke. Another 100,000 were babies or infant victims of passive smoking.
In 2010, a CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) study showed that 42,000 Americans die every year as a result of being exposed to secondhand smoke. That’s one nonsmoker killed for every eleven smokers who die from the habit. Secondhand, or passive smoke, is known to cause heart attacks in adults, and the devastating impact it has on children can range from asthma attacks, respiratory problems and SIDS, (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.)
The Colorado 2006 Clean Indoor Air Act was passed to protect innocent lungs from secondhand smoke, which causes 34,000 cases of fatal heart disease and over 7,000 deaths through lung cancer nationwide every year.
“Secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous for pregnant women,
Increasing the risks of preterm delivery, low birth weight, and miscarriage.”
Colorado’s Clean Indoor Air Act enforces smoking bans in many indoor areas and public places such as, but not limited to commercial and retail establishments, museums, libraries, schools, restaurants, and bars. And with the exception of non-public workplaces with three or fewer people, the Act also outlaws smoking in almost all places of employment.
When compared to the US national average, Colorado’s smoking statistics don’t hold up as well as states like Utah, California, or Minnesota, but is much better placed when compared to Kentucky and West Virginia, the two states with most smokers nationwide.
Below is a list of each of the top ten states with the highest and lowest smoking rates:
States with the highest rates of smoking:
29.9% West Virginia
States with the lowest rates of smoking:
16.9% New Jersey
17.1% Rhode Island
(Source: Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index 2013)
Colorado’s CIAA has more or less eliminated smoking in public spaces and workplaces, and as a result, the state has seen some significant changes. Millions of Coloradans are now better protected from the risks of tobacco smoke at work, and hundreds of thousands fewer people are smoking now than before the law came into effect. Thanks to the Act, most people living in Colorado can breathe safe, smoke-free air. But the state’s health officials admit they still have a way to go.
With above average rates of male student smokers, and well over 2,000 kids under 18 becoming new smokers every year, Colorado still books 5,100 yearly deaths from smoking. The state also estimates that 91,000 of its residents below the age of eighteen will die prematurely from smoking-related causes.
“The sad fact is that smoking in Colorado still kills more people than AIDS,
murders, suicides, illegal drugs, alcohol and traffic accidents COMBINED.”
Tragic as the figures are, the human cost is not the only factor Colorado has to endure. The dollar expenditure caused by smoking in the state runs into the billions. Healthcare directly related to smoking costs taxpayers almost $1.9 billion every year, and loss of productivity due to smoking-related downtime tops the $1.27 billion level annually.
Add to this the Medicaid costs of $386 million and the total leaves Coloradan’s facing a yearly tax burden of $692 per household for government expenditure caused directly by the impact smoking has on the health of its residents.
Since 2013, Colorado’s war on tobacco has focused more and more on the state’s younger residents. The dedicated, “I AM A SMOKE-FREE ZONE” campaign launched from Denver, and its surrounding communities, concentrated efforts on protecting children from secondhand smoke by declaring every child a smoke-free zone.
It also set out to destroy four of the most widespread misconceptions people have about passive smoking:
1. Blowing smoke out a window or door prevents exposing a child to secondhand smoke
2. The best strategy for preventing secondhand smoke in the home is to ventilate
3. Using deodorizers reduces the health risks posed by passive smoking
4. The only way to protect your child from secondhand smoke is to quit smoking altogether
The campaign is keen to stress that when it comes to secondhand smoke, there is no such thing as a risk-free level of exposure. Adults who smoke should be consistent and step outside if kids are in the home and step away from anyone that could be harmed before they light up and smoke their cigarettes.
“Each and every child in Colorado has
been declared a smoke-free zone.”
I AM A SMOKE-FREE ZONE is coordinated by Denver Public Health and is run in partnership with various local health agencies, and in a large number of counties. The campaign uses Spanish and English TV and radio broadcasts, event, restroom, store, and outdoor marketing to encourage Colorado’s residents to protect their children from the dangerous chemicals that can be found in secondhand smoke.
The campaign is only one of several major smoking-related public health campaigns now active in the state. And together with Colorado’s voter-approved hike in taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco-related products, the state’s health managers are optimistic that the battle for clean, smoke-free air in the Centennial State is turning in their favor.