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Celebrating 25 years of smoke-free US flights, American Lung Association calls for comprehensive smoke-free laws

Submitted Editorial

Mon, Feb 23rd 2015 12:05 pm

Aggressive push continues to eliminate secondhand smoke in workplaces, public spaces, housing

Editorial by the American Lung Association

Through the passage of groundbreaking legislation championed by the American Lung Association and its partners, U.S. airline passengers have been breathing smoke-free air for the past 25 years. On Feb. 25, the American Lung Association celebrates this historic protection for airline passengers and flight attendants from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, and calls to extend these protections to the American public where they live, work and gather.

"We are very proud of the role the American Lung Association played in making smoke-free skies a reality 25 years ago, and today we're still aggressively fighting to protect Americans from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke," American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer said.

On Feb. 25, 1990, the law making all domestic flights of six hours or less smoke-free went into effect. The measure, championed by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and then-Rep. Richard Durbin (D-IL), covered 99 percent of all flights in the U.S. Over the next decade, many airlines made all their flights smoke-free. In 2000, Congress passed a law to make all flights to and from the U.S. smoke-free.

Smoke-free skies paved the way for significant progress toward smoke-free worksites in state and communities. Now, 28 states and the District of Columbia enjoy comprehensive smoke-free laws. Still, far too many states and communities do not have these protections.

The U.S. surgeon general made clear there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. It kills more than 41,000 nonsmokers every year, according to the surgeon general's 2014 report "The Health Consequences of Smoking - 50 Years of Progress." And in 2009, the Institute of Medicine confirmed exposure to secondhand smoke is a significant cause of heart attacks among nonsmokers, and even relatively brief exposure could trigger a heart attack.

"Now that we know so much more about the health effects of secondhand smoke, we need to continue the charge to protect children, families and workers from the hazardous and even lethal effects of secondhand smoke," Wimmer said. "No level of secondhand smoke exposure is safe. And today, we call on all communities and states to pass comprehensive smoke-free laws."

The American Lung Association is committed to eliminating exposure to secondhand smoke, including in workplaces, public areas and multi-unit housing. Through its "Smoke-free Air Challenge," the American Lung Association has called on all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws prohibiting smoking in all public places and workplaces, including restaurants and bars. Currently, only 28 states and the District of Columbia have met the "Smoke-free Air Challenge."

"More needs to be done as one in four nonsmokers continue to be exposed to secondhand smoke, including two in five young children," Wimmer said. "No one should ever breathe secondhand smoke, and workers should not have to be exposed to secondhand smoke simply to earn a paycheck."

For more information, visit www.Lung.org/smokefree.

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