This story was originally published in the Idaho State Journal on Nov. 24, 2012. It was written by Pocatello bar owner Sylvia Hernandez.

Thousands of people decide to quit smoking each year as part of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout—a day in November that is a mile marker for those who are ready to end their deadly addiction to tobacco.

This year the day was last week, but it was not just for smokers. It was a celebration for non-smokers to rally in support of individuals who are quitting, to cheer on smoke-free businesses and to take a moment to reflect on the laws providing health and safety to all in the community.

Those bars and businesses that have voluntary, in-house smoke-free rules not only provide a healthy work environment to those in the bar and restaurant industries, but also offer a clean place for customers to visit.

Unfortunately, not every spot in Pocatello has moved to a smoke-free workplace. Some must dread going to work because their jobs allow smoking indoors. Non-smoking employees are put into unsafe working conditions, and many are not able to simply find new employment with the poor economy.

At The Pocket Bar & Grill, because we allow smoking, we are unable to hire, and have lost hard workers because of the smoke. We have had new employees quit after only two days of working because they became sick from the heavy smoke and dreaded coming to work. Another quit because she became pregnant and was concerned about the health of her child—no one should have to choose between good health and a good job. We want to provide a healthy environment for our employees and our customers.

This is why The Pocket Bar & Grill in Pocatello is becoming a smoke-free bar at the start of the New Year.

Smoking is dangerous. While the research explaining the effects of tobacco use is startling, even more shocking is how deadly it can be secondhand.

More than 7,000 chemicals from secondhand smoke can aggravate or cause nasty health problems including cancer, respiratory infections and asthma. It is responsible for 46,000 deaths from heart disease and 3,400 deaths from lung cancer each year among non-smokers.

After being inspired by this year’s Great American Smokeout, the people of Pocatello should take the time to voice their support for a smoke-free city, one with specific laws ensuring the safety of our businesses, employees and visitors, now and in the future.

The Pocatello community supports a smoke-free Idaho. The passion from students at Idaho State University has been an integral in gaining support and spreading the word. Bar owners are working to build a coalition to fight for the health and safety of those in the bar industry and as well as providing a level playing field. A work session on the subject was discussed at a public meeting, but no action has been taken. I encourage the Pocatello City Council to provide the leadership in supporting health and wellness for all people.

Cities around the state, country and world have created inclusive laws to ensure workplaces and public areas are smoke-free and have seen no adverse effects. Most of them even noticed an increase in productivity, a decrease in absenteeism among non-smoking employees, and an increase in business. Our patrons, customers, and tourists will welcome a healthy city—one that cares for the wellbeing of our citizens.

Join me by supporting smoke-free businesses in the community, congratulating those overcoming their dangerous addictions, and voicing your support for a Smoke-free Pocatello.

To learn more about the dangers of secondhand smoke, how to become a smoke-free workplace, how to get involved, or how to voice your support, visit Smoke-free Idaho at

Sylvia Hernandez is the bar owner of The Pocket in Pocatello.