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FOR RELEASE: May 29, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Health Officials Urge Public to Fight Back Against Secondhand Tobacco Smoke

State health officials want to fight tobacco industry misinformation and clear the air on secondhand smoke. In recognition of World No Tobacco Day 2001, a half-page ad will appear in several major newspapers in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Lawton, Enid and McAlester this Thursday, May 31.

“The key messages in the ad are that secondhand smoke kills, tobacco companies fight smoke-free policies to protect their bottom-line profits, and that public action can make a big difference in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke,” said Doug Matheny, director of the Oklahoma State Department of Health Office of Tobacco Use Prevention.

The ad features a table with national and state estimates of the number of people who die or develop serious health conditions each year from secondhand tobacco smoke. Between 35,000 and 62,000 Americans – including 430 to 760 Oklahomans – die each year as a result of heart disease caused by exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. Lung cancer deaths caused by secondhand smoke are estimated at 3,000 each year nationwide, including 40 in Oklahoma.

Exposure to secondhand smoke causes both children and adults with asthma to have more frequent and more severe attacks. Between 100 and 200 low birth-weight deliveries are caused each year in Oklahoma by exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke during pregnancy.

Young children are especially vulnerable. Because children's lungs are smaller and their immune systems are less developed, they are more likely to develop respiratory illnesses and ear infections from secondhand smoke. At least 8,700 physician office visits for ear infections among Oklahoma children are caused by secondhand smoke each year. And at least 1,800 cases of bronchitis or pneumonia occur annually among Oklahoma infants and toddlers due to secondhand smoke, with at least 90 cases requiring hospitalization. Some cases result in death.

The ad states, “Tobacco companies have spent millions of dollars hiring lobbyists, attacking legitimate scientific research, buying scientists, producing bogus studies, and creating controversy about secondhand smoke. When money and misinformation don't work, they promote false solutions.”

“Tobacco companies know that smoke-free policies lead to fewer cigarettes being smoked and also increase a smoker's chances of quitting for good,” said Matheny. He noted that three out of four adult smokers in Oklahoma want to quit smoking.

The ad encourages all Oklahomans to make their homes smoke-free, advocate for smoke-free workplaces, support smoke-free businesses and restaurants, and encourage establishments that are not yet smoke-free to adopt a smoke-free policy.

For more information on secondhand smoke, call toll-free 1-866-ONLY-AIR. More information on World No Tobacco Day can be found at http://tobacco.who.int/en/advocacy/wntd2001a.html

A copy of the ad may be downloaded or viewed in .pdf format (PDF files require the Adobe (TM) Reader) by clicking on the following web address; http://www.health.state.ok.us/program/tobac/add.pdf.

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