Friday, September 2nd, 2011
State: Smoking ban improving health
By Amy Kronenberger
A four-year smoking ban at businesses and workplaces has had a positive impact on the health of Ohioans, according to studies by the Ohio Department of Health.
Additionally, the studies showed no significant changes in the businesses economically or in the behavior of people patronizing the businesses.
"These analyses show that Ohio's coordinated public health efforts are having a positive impact on the health of our residents," said ODH Director Dr. Ted Wymyslo. "It is important to note, however, that these studies only represent initial findings on the impact of the law as additional studies are currently under way."
Ohioans passed the Smoke-Free Workplace Act in November 2006 and became the 12th state to protect all workers and the public from exposure to secondhand smoke in public places. It also became the first Midwestern state and first tobacco-growing state to institute an indoor smoking ban. Enforcement of the law began May 3, 2007.
Ohio's pre-diagnosis heart attacks dropped 26 percent since the law took effect, according to two separate studies comparing data for emergency room and urgent care visits. Post-diagnosis data also revealed a sharp decline in heart attack rates immediately following the implementation of the law, the study found.
Celina Moose Lodge members Debbe and Casey Hasenjager like the health benefits of the ban.
"I think it's great," Debbe Hasenjager said. "I wouldn't go into certain establishments before because of the smoke. Even if I didn't have a drink, I would wake up the next morning feeling like I had a hangover because of the smoke. Second-hand smoke is terrible."
Casey Hasenjager quit smoking in the 1960s.
"After you quite you really notice the smoke more," he said.
Another state study analyzed the economic impact of the ban, using sales from bars and restaurants in Ohio.
According to researcher Elizabeth Klein, of The Ohio State University College of Public Health, the law has not had an impact on either type of business.
"After accounting for unemployment and seasons of the year, the analysis found that the Smoke-Free Workplace Act did not have an economic effect on restaurants and bars in the state as a whole," she said.
Additionally, a study by Brandi Bennett of ODH found three out of four respondents to a random telephone survey said they visit restaurants and bars with the same frequency as before the ban.
One local bar owner disagrees.
Don DeArmond, owner of the Sidetrack Bar and Grill, Celina, has experienced a negative impact on his business.
"In the winter when it's snowy or anytime there's bad weather, I see a definite slow in my business," he said. "When the weather's bad, people stay home because they don't want to stand outside to smoke."
DeArmond and his patrons all agreed the ban was anti-American and infringed on an individual's rights.
"We respect the voters' decision and go outside to smoke, but it should be our right," said Sidetrack patron Dave Coleman. "It's getting to the point where we don't have any rights anymore."
"It should be up to the discretion of the bar owner," DeArmond said. "As a taxpayer and property owner, it should be my decision. If I want to paint my establishment pink with blue stripes, that's my right."
DeArmond said some people are allergic to grease, but his bar has fryers.
"What's next?" he said. "Will I have to get rid of my fryers or set up a separate kitchen location? Where does it end?"
Kelly Ranard, assistant manager at C.J. Highmark's in Celina, has only seen a positive outcome from the ban.
"At first the smokers were upset and said they wouldn't come back," she said. "So at first it affected the business because it was a shock, I think. But then things calmed down and everyone adjusted to the change."
Ranard said the adjustment was smoother than she expected.
"We've definitely had more positive comments than negative, and I've really noticed a change for the better in the atmosphere," she said. "The atmosphere is cleaner and nicer and everyone seems to be happier."
According to the survey conducted by the Ohio Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the majority of adults in Ohio do not believe smoking should be allowed in indoor work areas or in the indoor dining areas of restaurants.
Nearly 74 percent of respondents do not believe smoking should be allowed at all in indoor work areas, and approximately 75 percent of respondents do not believe smoking should be allowed at all in the indoor dining area of restaurants.
"The good news is that Ohioans still overwhelmingly support the law," Wymyslo said.