In testimony before the House Public Health Committee on March 2, Dallas physician John Carlo, M.D., put forth his support for a statewide smoking ban that would prohibit smoking in public places and workplaces. Advocates tried to pass similar legislation last session and failed, for various reasons. Now as it comes up again as House Bill 670 by Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Lake Dallas, and Senate Bill 355 by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, public health groups are gearing up for another push.
Dr. Carlo said that physicians and the public at large have known conclusively since 1986 that secondhand smoke is dangerous to children and adults, and that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. As medical professionals, you understand the biological explanation why secondhand smoke exposure causes damage to blood vessels and the heart. Study after epidemiological study demonstrates an increase in cardiac disease and mortality with increasing exposure to secondhand smoke.
While 33 Texas municipalities have passed some type of smoking ban in public places, including the largest cities in the state, many rural communities haven’t. Some say a smoking ban is an infringement on an individual’s right to smoke; others say it will hurt local businesses like bars and restaurants (which, by the way, isn’t true according to a January 2011 survey by Baselice and Associates, Inc.).
A March 1 press conference held by Smoke Free Texas and the Texas Public Health Coalition—of which TAFP is one of 27 members—highlighted several bills, including the smoking ban bills. Representatives spoke about the economic damages caused by tobacco use—that the annual direct medical expenses of smoking, loss of workplace productivity, and premature death cost Texas more than $20 billion. A report prepared for the American Lung Association showed while the average retail price of a pack of cigarettes in 2010 was $5.52, the actual cost to the Texas economy was $21 per pack—a heavy price. Find coverage of the press conference at http://www.tafp.org/news/stories/11.03.03.1.asp.
What do the physicians say? You know your patients better than anyone else. As a rural physician, what steps do you take to encourage patients to quit? Do you meet resistance from these patients? We’ll continue to follow this issue as it progresses. Tell us what you think.