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Health of Community Improves with Smoke Reduction
Posting Date: 09/19/2012

Michael McGreer
Robert M. Shepard, MD, speaks at a Mesquite Health Care coalition meeting Sept. 14. Photo by Mike McGreer.

Robert M. Shepard, MD, speaks at a
Mesquite Health Care coalition
meeting Sept. 14. Photo by Mike
McGreer.

“You can improve the health of your community dramatically by reducing smoking and it doesn't cost a nickel,” Robert M. Shepard MD told members of the Mesquite Health Care coalition during a Friday, Sept. 14 meeting at the Mesa View Regional Hospital in Mesquite. An additional session was held at the Falcon Ridge for citizens interested in public health.

Shepard noted that the 20,000 residents of his home-town of Helena, Montana, save over one million dollars a year in health care costs after passing their Clean Indoor Air Ordinance on June 4, 2002. There was a 40 percent decrease in Acute Myocardial Infractions, compared to the same time period in the previous four years without the ordinance, he said. The ordinance, which originally passed in Helena, was eventually passed state-wide.

Other studies have shown a 10 to 15 percent drop in heart attacks across the United States from various smoke-free efforts. Other reductions in heart attacks include: 27 percent in Pueblo, Colo., 39 percent in Ohio, 70 percent in Indiana and 9 percent in New York. World-wide, research studies have shown a 30 percent drop in heart attacks in Canada ,a 30 percent drop in health care costs, a 14 percent drop in both Ireland and France, and 11 percent in Italy.

“You can improve the health of your community dramatically by reducing smoking and it doesn't cost a nickel,” Robert M. Shepard MD told members of the Mesquite Health Care coalition during a Friday, Sept. 14 meeting at the Mesa View Regional Hospital in Mesquite. An additional session was held at the Falcon Ridge for citizens interested in public health.

“There is no such thing as a 'right to smoke',” the retired physician said. The only rights we have are in the Bill of Rights and smoking is not included. “Even, the constitutional rights are not absolute,” he noted. A person “cannot libel or slander, cannot have fully automatic rifles (without a license) or even hold a parade without a permit.”

“A business cannot run without a license. There are asbestos restrictions and requirements for handicap access,” he continued. He pointed out that, “lead, radioactivity, and chemical exposures are all public health issues adding that: “a business can't do things if it impacts public health. There simply is no business right to choose to allow smoking or not. Exercising one's rights cannot harm other people.”

Shepard also

stated that those who claim such “rights” fail to take responsibility for their actions. “Smoking costs all of us in health care,” he said adding that, “insurance premiums are 10 percent higher because you are paying for smokers. If smokers paid for their own health care a pack of cigarettes would cost $7.50 per pack. Instead we pay higher taxes and insurance premiums to cover their habit.”

The doctor reported that several courts have upheld workplace bans on smoking. In Rossie vs. Washington, a court upheld a workplace smoking ban despite a smoking workers' argument that his private rights and interests are affected. The FAA has ruled that passengers have no right to be in a smoking section. “Even jails ban smoking,” adding that a City in Florida will not hire anyone who smokes. The Florida ruling is interesting, he said, because it fundamentally bans smoking, not only at work, but in the home, office or elsewhere if a person wants a job with the city.

“Businesses look to cost-shift,” Shepard told the audience. Some 70 percent of hospitality workers have no health insurance. Unhealthy environments make everyone sick including both workers and customers. “Businesses shift those costs to society at large,” he said.

In discussing the economic devastation, he pointed to the use of stories to counter science. For example, over 85 articles on the economics of smoke free laws show no effect on business income. Yet any number of stories are offered to counter the facts. Unfortunately, he said that, “stories have real impact and people believe what they want to believe. Stories can be misleading.”

Shepard pointed to a number of economic studies that show increases, or no-effect after smoke free laws have passed. However, he was careful to note that economies go up and down, and businesses like to point to normal downturns in business activity as the result of smoking ban. “Individual businesses will be impacted by competition and management decisions, but not the law (smoke free laws),” he said.

In discussing various epidemiology studies he noted that people don't generally think in probabilities leading to false conclusions. “We are pattern thinking people,” he said, noting that “statistics help us sort through biases.”

A lot of businesses spend millions of dollars on mechanical solutions that simply don't work, Shepard said. “Honeywell will not guarantee against medical hazards.”

Even if a person is addicted to smoking, they “have no right to reach into my wallet to pay for their addiction. Why any employer would allow smoking is a mystery,” he reported.

 

Commentary
  • Posted Date: 09/19/2012
    Do not ban smoking. After this ban there will be another ban and another. People in America have the right to decide how they want to live. Remember the Volstead Act.
    By: Bob Charles
  •  
  • Posted Date: 09/19/2012
    Bob, No one is trying to “ban smoking” in any manner such as you suggest with your false equivalency to the Volker Act (alcohol prohibition). The only thing being proposed is to stop smokers from endangering the lives and health of others. Smokers would still be free to smoke in places where they are not endangering others in confined areas where people work and play. Remember the truthful old adage about freedoms – your freedom to swing your fist stops at my nose! No one has the right to harm other innocent people by exercising their rights!
    By: just sayin2
  •  
  • Posted Date: 09/19/2012
    This is the height of folly. With all of the serious issues in our community, these radicals want to worry about smoking??? These are the same people who are obese, never exercise, don't get involved in our community to address corruption but want to make sure the guy next to them at a slot machine doesn't smoke while they guzzle down a scotch and soda. Please folks, get real. People are DYING in Afghanistan and Syria, women, child and babies. Try taking on a real cause.
    By: Bill
  •  
  • Posted Date: 09/19/2012
    The exception is when your nose is in my business.
    By: Betty Haines
  •  
  • Posted Date: 09/19/2012
    So let me get this straight. If I open a business in which all the employees condone the customer's right to smoke, then I can allow smoking?
    By: Bill Miller
  •  
     
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