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For Release:  October 23, 2009
Contact: Pamela Williams                        
Office of Communications                        

OSDH Issues Warning on Exposure to Secondhand Tobacco Smoke

Based on a major new report issued by the Institute of Medicine that concludes avoiding exposure to tobacco smoke reduces heart attack deaths, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is warning Oklahomans with heart disease or with elevated risk for heart disease to avoid places where smoking is allowed indoors.

“The Institute of Medicine points out that even relatively brief exposures to tobacco smoke have adverse effects on the heart and cardiovascular system and that these effects can contribute to heart attacks and deaths,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline. “About 700 deaths each year in Oklahoma are attributable to secondhand smoke exposure, and the majority of these deaths are from heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.”

In 2007 the State Board of Health recommended changes in state laws to close the loopholes that still permit smoking in several types of indoor workplaces, including stand-alone bars and restaurants with smoking rooms, where thousands of workers are subject to exposure to tobacco smoke pollution at these indoor worksites.

Oklahoma has poor health status---43rd out of the 50 states according to the United Health Foundation. This is in part because of high cardiovascular-related deaths, for which Oklahoma is ranked 49th among the states by the same organization. Oklahoma has very low heart health status with 25 percent higher heart disease and heart attack death rates than the national average, and clean indoor air laws with worksite loopholes that need to be closed.

“We must recognize that smoking and secondhand smoke contribute not just to cancer and respiratory problems, but also to our poor state of cardiovascular health,” said Cline. “This Institute of Medicine report adds another excellent reason why no one should have to breathe these known toxins in order to hold a job,” he continued. “Especially in today’s job market, it is not practical to expect Oklahoma workers to quit a job that jeopardizes their health and readily find another job more to their liking. Thousands of our citizens are suffering today from this readily preventable problem in indoor workplaces that continue to permit smoking.”

In addition to the health benefits cited as reasons for smokefree policies, studies have also shown these policies can have positive economic impact. An economic analysis of the 2003 changes in Oklahoma smoking laws---conducted by an economist at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah---showed beneficial results from those changes, including a significantly positive impact on employment and no adverse effects on restaurant sales, which were also up. Dozens of other sound, objective studies on other places have shown that smokefree policies have no negative economic impact, and in fact, can provide a positive effect.



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