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On 10th Anniversary of Ohio’s Smoke-Free Law, Public Health Leaders Celebrate Success and Advocate for Additional Steps to Reduce Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

December 7, 2016

CINCINNATI – Leaders from the City of Cincinnati Health Department, Hamilton County Public Health and Northern Kentucky Health Department gathered today at Cincinnati Riverview East Academy to recognize the 10th anniversary of the Ohio Smoke-free Workplace Act. The 2006 law prohibits smoking in public places or places of employment.

“The health impact of smoke-free environments cannot be understated,” says Dr. Marilyn Crumpton, Interim Cincinnati Health Commissioner. “We should be proud Ohio has taken a leadership role in becoming the first Midwestern state to implement a smoke-free workplace law. We are one of 30 states that have passed legislation banning smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants.”

Punitive fines to violators range from a warning letter to $100-$2,500 fines for subsequent violations. In the City of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, enforcement of the Smoke-free Workplace Act is carried out by Environmental Health Sanitarians. These individuals are charged with making sure the intent of the law is followed. In 2015, the Cincinnati Health Department conducted 44 complaint investigations and found 15 (34%) violations. To date, CHD has received 38 complaints with nine (24%) violations noted.

“Ohio’s Smoke-Free legislation is complaint-driven,” says Hamilton County Health Commissioner Tim Ingram. “When the legislation first went into effect, we were seeing 400-plus complaints annually. That number has dropped to below 50 for this year,” Ingram says. “What’s more, the Ohio Department of Health conducted a study on the effects of the legislation on restaurants and bars in Ohio,” Ingram adds. “By the study’s conclusion, no significant change in taxable sales for these establishments was found, indicating consumer acceptance for the law.”

“Secondhand smoke causes numerous health problems in infants and children,” says Crumpton. “Many children experience more frequent and severe asthma attacks, respiratory and ear infections and tragically, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).” She adds, “Adult health is affected by secondhand smoke, too, it’s important to note potential increases in coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer.”

Non-smokers do not escape the dangers. Studies show nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their risk of developing lung cancer by 20-30 percent, thereby, causing more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers each year.

“We applaud Ohio for its efforts to protect residents and visitors from secondhand smoke with a comprehensive smoke-free law,” says Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health. “Kentucky still does not have a statewide law. A patchwork of local ordinances in the state can make it confusing, and this leaves many Kentucky workers exposed to secondhand smoke. Thus, we continue to educate our leaders in Kentucky about the dangers of secondhand smoke and advocate for policies that eliminate exposure.”

Public health officials outlined several initiatives designed to promote tobacco-free environments throughout the tristate region:

  • In 2010, the Creating Healthy Communities Coalition was formed to focus on policies, systems and environmental changes related to tobacco-free, active living and healthy eating. Over 90 businesses, schools and nonprofit organizations are working together to make Cincinnati the healthiest city in the nation. The Coalition works with local businesses and City of Cincinnati departments to develop and promote more expansive smoke-free environments. The coalition has helped implement the smoke-free multi-unit housing policy at Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority properties and is working with University of Cincinnati to implement their new tobacco-free campus policy. With support from the Ohio Department of Health, the coalition is also forming a STAND youth group to “stand up and speak out against tobacco.
  • Hamilton County Public Health, through its WeTHRIVE! initiative, works with 45 jurisdictions in the county to implement tobacco-free policy; increase the number of smoke-free outdoor spaces; and engage youth to advocate for comprehensive tobacco-free policies.
  • In Northern Kentucky, increasing tobacco-free policies is part of the myNKY regional strategic plan and is integrated in the LiveWell NKY movement, which engages community coalitions, faith-based leaders and worksites. Further, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s Board recently endorsed a statewide, smoke-free law.

For more information about Smoke-free Ohio, visit www.odh.ohio.gov/smokefree/sf1/