Column: Smoke-free Workplaces Improve Health, Lower Costs

Share

COMMUNITY RECORDER | GLENN LOOMIS | FEBRUARY 9, 2015

Kentucky spends $1.92 billion a year in health care costs treating smoking-related illnesses

Smoking is harmful to Kentucky’s health.

Our state has the highest smoking rate in the country, so it follows that Kentucky also has high rates of health issues associated with tobacco use. Nearly 8,000 Kentuckians die each year because of tobacco-related diseases. Eighty-five percent of all lung cancers are caused by cigarette smoking, and Kentucky leads the nation in lung cancer deaths.

Smoking, alone, kills more Kentuckians each year than alcohol, AIDS, car crashes, illegal drugs, murders and suicides combined. For every person in Kentucky who dies from smoking, approximately 20 more are suffering from serious smoking-caused disease and disability, or other tobacco-caused health problems.

The habit is an expensive one: Kentucky spends $1.92 billion a year in health care costs treating smoking-related illnesses.

Smoke-free workplaces are good for health.

When smoke-free laws are enacted, smoking rates go down. Numerous studies have found that workers covered by smoke-free policies are more likely to quit smoking. The smoking rate in Fayette County declined nearly 32 percent after its smoke-free law was enacted in 2004, while smoking rates remained stable in Kentucky counties without smoke-free ordinances.

Smoke-free laws reduce chronic health problems as well. After Lexington passed its law, there was a 22 percent decline in emergency department visits, and the heart attack rate for women, who were more likely to work in places covered by smoke-free policy, went down 23 percent.

Smoke-free work places are good for businesses, too.

Studies show smoke-free environments can reduce business costs for maintenance expenses, insurance premiums and labor.

Workers in smoke-free places are less likely to be absent and are more productive. Right now, smoking-related illness and death costs Kentucky $2.3 billion a year in lost productivity.

A common argument in Northern Kentucky is that a smoke-free law here could hurt local bars and restaurants. The research shows otherwise.

Two years after implementation of a comprehensive smoke-free law in the state of Washington, revenues for bars and taverns were $105.5 million more than expected.

Closer to home, a 2009 study of Ohio’s smoke-free law showed no economic benefit for bordering Kentucky counties that continued to allow smoking. In addition, more than one in three respondents to a 2014 survey said they go to Ohio at least some of the time to dine at smoke-free restaurants.

Support for a smoke-free law in Kentucky is building.

A recent study conducted for the Northern Kentucky Health Department found that nine in 10 adults agree that secondhand smoke harms their health. Further, nearly seven in 10 Northern Kentucky voters support smoke-free laws. The Kentucky Health Issues Poll shows that statewide support for smoke-free laws is growing. In 2010, only 48 percent were in favor of such a law; the number has grown to 66 percent in 2014.

More than 500 organizations and businesses support a smoke-free law, including St. Elizabeth Healthcare, the Northern Kentucky Medical Society and the Three Rivers District Health Department.

A smoke free law is good for the health and economy of Kentucky. It’s time to clear the air.

Read the article online.