A Breath of Fresh Air: Smoke free is safer

— Breathing easier this summer? You should be.

July 1 marked the one-year anniversary of the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, a statewide law requiring most indoor public places to be smoke-free.

Similar to achievements such as water fluoridation and vaccinations, smoke-free laws are an effective way to improve public health by reducing people's exposure to secondhand smoke.

About 53,000 deaths per year in the United States are unwittingly caused by involuntary exposure to second hand smoke.

"This is not about shaming the smoker. This is not even about banning smoking," said Dr. Armando Peruga, who heads the World Health Organization's antitobacco campaign. "This is about society making decisions about where to smoke and where not to smoke."

We now know that the ordinance has had many positive effects.

Workers and guests feel better.

The economic impacts indicate revenues have remained the same or even increased with most businesses in Colorado. And less smoke in the air means fewer smoking-related illnesses. After Pueblo went smoke-free in July 2003, heart attack rates dropped 27 percent in the subsequent 18 months.

However, we still have room for improvement. Although the proportion of U.S. households that are smoke-free increased from 43 percent in 1992-93 to 72 percent in 2003, the latest Surgeon General's report indicated 60 percent of our children ages 3 to 11 continue to remain at risk.

Almost three million children under the age of six breathe secondhand smoke at home at least four days per week.

Secondhand tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, many toxic metals and poison gases - 60 of which have been identified as Class A carcinogens.

These chemicals are uniquely dangerous to children's growing bodies because children breathe 2 to 3 times more pollutants for every pound of body weight than adults do. Exposure to them increases the likelihood of ear infections, more severe asthma and bronchitis, reduced cognitive function and sudden infant death syndrome.

Some common misconceptions associated with secondhand smoke are:

Distance Myth: In reality, there is no safe distance. Breathing even a small amount of secondhand smoke is harmful to one's health. Because air circulates throughout your house, smoking anywhere is the same as smoking everywhere in the home.

Ventilation Myth: You literally cannot clear the air of chemicals from second hand smoke. It does not help to open a window or install even the most expensive air filtration system.

Odor Myth: If a smoker cannot smell smoke, that doesn't mean the smoke is not there. Chemicals linger for weeks in carpets, clothes and furniture.

The evidence is clear that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke.

A "One Step" media campaign lets parents and adults know that stepping outside is the only way - aside from quitting - to keep kids and others from being exposed to second hand smoke. There is simply not a safe way to smoke in the home or car. We know that smoking in a confined space such as a car is 23 times more toxic than smoking in a house.

Today, one out of every two American citizens now lives and works in a smoke-free area. Because Colorado is part of a worldwide and national trend toward healthier living, we all experience the many benefits of a smoke-free environment. Businesses should be applauded for their cooperation and support.

Breathe deeply and say "thank you, Colorado."

Teresa Wright is a health educator at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. She can be reached at 871-7639.

Comments

nyscof 6 years, 9 months ago

Contrary to belief, fluoridation is damaging teeth with little cavity reduction, according to a review of recent studies reported in Clinical Oral Investigations.(1)

Fluoride chemicals are added to 2/3 of U.S. water supplies in an attempt to reduce tooth decay and is in virtually 100% of the food supply. Yet, the Centers for Disease Control reports cavities are rising in our most fluoridated generation - toddlers. (1a)

Pizzo and colleagues reviewed English-language fluoridation studies published from January 2001 to June 2006 and write, "Several epidemiological studies conducted in fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities suggest that [fluoridation] may be unnecessary for caries prevention..." They also report that fluoride-damaged teeth spiked upwards to 51% from the 10-12% found over 60 years ago in "optimally" fluoridated communities. Dental fluorosis is white-spotted, yellow, brown-stained and/or pitted teeth.

Fluoridation began in 1945 when dentists thought that ingested fluoride incorporated into children's developing tooth enamel to prevent cavities. However, Pizzo's group reports that fluoride ingestion confers little, if any, benefit and fails to reduce oral health disparities in low-income Americans.

Also, any difference in fluoride tooth enamel surface concentration between fluoridated and low-fluoridated areas is minimal. And the relationship between higher enamel fluoride levels to less tooth decay was not found.

"Some risk of increasing fluorosis may be attributed to the ingestion of powdered infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water... [and] foods and beverages processed in fluoridated areas... Furthermore, the use of dietary fluoride supplements during the first 6 years of life is associated with a significant increase in the risk of developing fluorosis," they write.

Some studies Pizzo reviewed focused on communities that stopped water fluoridation. "...after the cessation, caries prevalence did not rise, remained almost the same or even decreased further," writes Pizzo's group.

"In most European countries, where [water fluoridation] has never been adopted, a substantial decline [75%] in caries prevalence has been reported in the last decades," they report.

References: http://tinyurl.com/6kqtu

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