What Supporters of SB372 Aren’t Telling You
Note: This is a guest editorial for local media submitted by Dr. Mary Anderson, District Health Officer.
The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act was passed by a majority of Washoe County voters in the 2006 election and took effect on December eighth of that year. As a result, smoking has been prohibited in most public places and indoor areas of employment, including schools, restaurants, bars that serve food, and retail establishments, including grocery, convenience and drug stores.
According to a recent study, compliance with this law in Washoe County has been excellent - ninety-eight percent of affected facilities have banned smoking. This means the vast majority of public places in Washoe County are now free from secondhand smoke and that more children, non-smoking adults, and workers than ever before are protected from its harmful effects.
Unfortunately, a key state legislative committee recently voted to pass a measure that is the first step in reversing several provisions of the law. SB372, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would amend the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act to allow smoking in additional public places, including bars or taverns that serve food as long as minors are restricted from entering and in areas of convention facilities being used for tobacco-related meetings or trade shows. The bill also removes the ability of local authorities to adopt additional anti-smoking laws, even if they are in the best interest of public’s health.
Bill supporters say these changes will improve Nevada’s economy, though no formal studies to support this contention exist. There also is a lot they are not saying. For example:
They are not telling you that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
They are not telling you that secondhand smoke knows no boundaries. It seeps through cracks in door frames, defies all ventilation systems, clings to objects in the environment, and invades your lungs. It does not know if minors have been prohibited from entering the area or if smokers recently have occupied a meeting space that those cautious of secondhand smoke effects now want to use.
They are not telling you that you that secondhand smoke-related illnesses (along with those related directly to smoking) cost Nevadans millions in medical expenses, insurance premiums and lost productivity every year.
Finally, they are not telling you that SB372 would roll back Nevada’s smoking laws to those of the 1990s, which was before the U.S. Surgeon General affirmed that secondhand smoke contributes to an extensive list of serious health conditions including cancer, heart disease, and premature death.
In 2006, Washoe County voters spoke loud and clear in favor of the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act. They also rejected a less restrictive option to the Act placed on the ballot by the same organizations that now back SB372. Unfortunately, few Washoe County voters were able to voice their objections when SB372 was heard recently by the Judiciary Committee.
The Washoe County Health District considers the negative effects of tobacco use and secondhand smoke exposure to be priority health issues for our community. Join us in continuing to protect our community from the dangers of secondhand smoke by contacting your legislators and urging them to keep the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act intact by voting against SB372.
For more information about the effects of secondhand smoke or the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, visit www.gethealthywashoe.com or call 775-328-6160.###