July 24 is the 10th anniversary of New York’s Clean Indoor Air Act.
The act addresses the deadly health effects of secondhand smoke. It prohibits smoking in workplaces, bars, restaurants, bowling facilities, taverns and bingo halls. Lives have been saved and millions of New Yorkers have reaped the health benefits of smoke-free workplaces in the last 10 years. Unfortunately, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death in New York.
Smoking is still killing Americans at an alarming rate; more than 400,000 every year. The vast majority of adult smokers (90 percent) began smoking as teenagers, and 70 percent of them would like to quit. They know continuing to smoke increases their risk of heart disease, lung disease and cancer. Why don’t they quit? Because nicotine is extremely addictive. If we hope to decrease the number of smokers in the future, we must find ways to prevent kids from becoming addicted to nicotine today.
Research tells us when children are frequently exposed to tobacco marketing displays they are more likely to begin smoking. Tobacco displays are colorful and at eye level. They make cigarettes appear desirable, easy to obtain and acceptable. For these reasons, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends that tobacco companies be limited in the way they advertise to youth in the retail environment. Some stores and pharmacies in the Finger Lakes have proactively removed cigarettes from view. They should be applauded for having the best interest of our children at heart. Now, the rest of the region and state need to follow suit.
When Ontario County’s high school children were surveyed in 2010-2011, 13 percent reported they had smoked within the previous 20 days; of 12th graders, 21 percent were smokers. In New York there are currently 389,000 teens who will die prematurely as adults because they became addicted to nicotine as kids. Limiting retail advertising of tobacco products is something we can do for our kids today to preserve their health for the future.
Visit http://bit.ly/igQQNk for information about ongoing efforts to reduce tobacco use and protect kids from tobacco marketing.
Mary Beer is Ontario County public health director.