Valley should consider smoke-free laws

Originally published in the Idaho Mountain Express

By WENDY JAQUET

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

However, the day—this year on Wednesday, Nov. 15—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.

As an ex-smoker and cancer survivor, the effects of tobacco—and secondhand smoke—are well known to me. After learning about the dangers I faced from smoking, it was heartbreaking to hear about how dangerous it was for those around me to breath in the toxic smoke.

For every eight smokers the tobacco industry kills, it takes one nonsmoker with them—killing 53,000 nonsmokers in the U.S. every year. Non-smokers exposed to secondhand smoke have mortality rates 30 percent higher than those not exposed, and food service workers have a 50 percent greater risk of dying from lung cancer.

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

The Wood River Valley is a health-conscious area that has implemented smoke-free policies voluntarily within all our bars and small businesses. This not only shows a care for the community, but also proves to our visitors that their health and safety is a priority.

There is no comprehensive city-wide ordinance supporting smoke-free workplaces, including bars, hotels/motels or small businesses. This means that new businesses where smoking would be permitted could establish themselves in the area. Not only would this shake up our current level playing field, it would also create hazardous workplaces for employees and patrons.

During this year’s Great American Smoke Out, people living and working in the Wood River Valley 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, for now and in the future.

Cities around the state, country and world have created inclusive laws to ensure workplaces and public areas are smoke-free and 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 be pleased to see a healthy city—one that cares for the wellbeing of our citizens and visitors.

Join me this month in supporting the smoke-free businesses in the community, congratulating those overcoming their dangerous addictions, and voicing your support for a smoke-free Wood River Valley. If you smoke, it’s time to consider quitting

To learn more about the dangers of secondhand smoke, how to create a smoke-free workplace, how to get involved, or how to voice your support, visit Smokefree Idaho at www.SmokefreeIdaho.org.

Blaine County resident Wendy Jaquet is a longtime member of the Idaho House of Representatives, representing District 25 (now 26) as a Democrat. She is retiring from the post and will be replaced in 2013 by Republican Steve Miller of Fairfield.