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Survey: Overwhelming Majority in Northern Kentucky Support Smoke-Free Law

According to new research from the Tobacco-Free Northern Kentucky collaborative, a majority of Northern Kentucky voters and businesses surveyed want smoke-free laws in Kentucky. Nine in 10 Northern Kentucky residents agree that secondhand smoke harms their health. Further, air quality testing at Northern Kentucky restaurants shows that indoor air in establishments that allow smoking is at levels considered unsafe for public health.

The Tobacco-Free Northern Kentucky collaborative, with support from the Northern Kentucky Health Department and Interact for Health, conducted three separate studies regarding smoke-free air. Studies included a public opinion survey, air quality monitoring and a survey of local worksites.

“Eliminating exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke can improve our community’s health, and help us achieve our goal of reducing heart-related deaths in Northern Kentucky by 25 percent over the next decade,” said Sarah Giolando, Chief Strategy Officer of St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Interact for Health board member. “It will also reduce rates of diseases that we see every day, including cancer, asthma and low birth weight babies. This new research shows that a majority of Northern Kentucky residents want to protect health by making our public places smoke-free.”

PUBLIC OPINION SURVEY

In July and August 2014 a representative sample of voters in four Northern Kentucky counties were surveyed about their opinions on smoke-free public places. Results show they know secondhand smoke is harmful to their health, and an increasing majority of those voters favor statewide smoke-free laws. Further, a majority of voters prefer to dine in smoke-free restaurants and say smoking should not be allowed at workplaces.

Key findings:

·       --65 percent of those surveyed favor a smoke-free law.

·       --92 percent of respondents indicated that secondhand smoke is either very harmful or somewhat harmful to health.

·       --73 percent prefer to dine at restaurants that don’t allow smoking.

·       --70 percent say that smoking should not be allowed at workplaces.

·       --22 percent said that they have gone to a restaurant or bar in Ohio because it is smoke-free.

·       --31 percent said that if there was a smoke-free law in Kentucky, their frequency of going to Kentucky restaurants would increase.

WORKSITE SURVEY

Representatives from key businesses in Northern Kentucky responded to a survey in August and September 2014. The survey looked at both policies and attitudes toward tobacco use and secondhand smoke. The research showed a majority of businesses surveyed favor a statewide law that would prohibit smoking in most public places.

Key findings

·       --51 percent provide tobacco cessation resources to employees.

·       --19 percent are interested in strengthening tobacco policy at their workplace.

·       --53 percent favor a local or county-level law that would prohibit smoking in most public places, including workplaces, public buildings, offices, restaurants and bars.

·       --62 percent favor a state law in Kentucky that would prohibit smoking in most public places, including workplaces, public buildings, offices, restaurants and bars.

AIR QUALITY TESTING

Between August 2013 and January 2014, air quality monitoring occurred in a total of 128 restaurants and bars in Boone, Campbell and Grant Counties. It showed there is new, strong evidence that voters’ concerns about secondhand smoke are warranted: In all three counties, particulate air quality in smoke-free buildings was much healthier than those that were not smoke free; air quality in buildings that allowed smoking was worse than the EPA’s standard for outdoor air quality. Although there are other sources of particulate matter, a major source in indoor places is smoking and burning tobacco products.

In Kenton County, air quality was measured after the April 2011 implementation of the county’s smoke-free law. Monitoring found that air quality in establishments that were completely non-smoking was nearly three times lower than EPA standards for outdoor air; however, air quality in establishments that allowed smoking in certain areas or during certain times, under exemptions in the ordinance, was more than 1.5 times worse. Air quality in establishments allowing smoking everywhere at all times was the worst, at more than double the level of the EPA standards for outdoor air quality.

“Everyone in Kentucky should have the right to breathe smoke-free air,” said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health for the Health Department. “This research shows that there is support in Northern Kentucky for smoke-free policies. The public health of Kentucky is best served when everyone is protected from secondhand smoke.”

For more information on the research, including county-specific data, please visit http://www.nkyhealth.org/smokefree.aspx.

-Staff report