By Arlene Parker Goldson
Amending the DeKalb County Clean Indoor Air Ordinance is good for all who live, work and play in DeKalb.
Making the current ordinance protect all workers and visitors drives this recommended amendment. There is no justifiable reason for laws to protect workers and patrons of some public places and not others. This double standard should be eliminated.
The proposed amendment to the Clean Indoor Air Ordinance would prohibit smoking at free-standing bars, the eight existing adult-entertainment establishments and outdoor venues — including parks and playgrounds; entrances and exits to buildings; outdoor entertainment venues; and outdoor service lines, such as the line at the ATM.
The proposal also decreases the number of rooms a hotel can designate for smoking from 25 percent to 10 percent.
The economic health of DeKalb’s business community is important, but it should not supersede the physical health of residents and visitors to DeKalb. Numerous studies have shown that a more comprehensive smoke-free ordinance, once adopted, has no negative impact on a business. Policies that support a healthy workforce and systems that address health disparities are what lead to a healthier community.
In general, smoking bans reduce tobacco use, cut the public’s exposure to secondhand smoke, help smokers quit smoking if they want to quit, reduce smoking-related illness and help bring down health care costs.
This debate is about public health and the public’s interest in reducing exposure to secondhand smoke, reducing youth tobacco use, helping smokers quit and holding down the huge range of tobacco-related health costs. These costs get factored into public health care budgets and overall health insurance premiums, and therefore are borne by smokers and nonsmokers alike.
More than 11,000 Georgia residents suffer from tobacco-related illnesses and deaths.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of the Surgeon General, exposure to secondhand smoke leads to serious health risks:
● Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work have a 25 percent to 30 percent higher risk of developing heart disease and a 20 percent to 30 percent higher risk of developing lung cancer.
● Concentrations of many cancer-causing and toxic chemicals are higher in secondhand smoke than in the smoke inhaled by smokers.
● Breathing secondhand smoke for even a short time can have immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and interferes with the normal functioning of the heart, blood and vascular systems in ways that increase the risk of a heart attack.
● Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate all the dangerous particles and gases from secondhand smoke exposure.
The DeKalb County Board of Health believes passing this amendment allows the millions of residents and visitors who enjoy DeKalb’s parks, bike trails, nature preserves and dining establishments and those who frequent DeKalb’s many businesses will be able to breathe cleaner air.
Arlene Parker Goldson is chairwoman of the DeKalb County Board of Health.