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FOR RELEASE: June 28, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Public Response High for Toll-Free Information on Secondhand Smoke

In its first month, a statewide toll-free telephone service for information on secondhand tobacco smoke has received more than 300 calls from Oklahomans. The toll-free number, 1-866-ONLY-AIR, was launched on May 28 by the state health department to help inform the public of current findings on the health hazards of exposure to secondhand smoke and to respond to public interest in smoke-free policies. The number has been promoted through a public education campaign in the Tulsa area and through newspaper ads in several cities across the state. All callers receive an information packet about secondhand smoke, its effects, current laws, and how exposure can be reduced through smoke-free policies.

“There is clearly a lot of interest in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke in public places and workplaces,” said Doug Matheny, director of the Office of Tobacco Use Prevention at the state health department. “Most callers complain of health conditions caused by or made worse by involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke, either to themselves or a family member.”

Exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke causes an estimated 750 deaths in Oklahoma every year – about the same number as caused by motor vehicle accidents. At least 40 chemicals in secondhand smoke have been shown to cause cancer. Exposure also places extra stress on the heart and reduces the body's ability to take in and use oxygen. For asthma sufferers, secondhand smoke can cause immediate respiratory danger by triggering attacks.

Children's lungs are smaller and their immune systems are less developed—making them more likely to develop respiratory illnesses and ear infections from secondhand smoke.


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