Missouri Easy Target for Smoke-free Policies
Missouri easy target for smoke-free air policies, tobacco cessation and prevention
With the lowest cigarette tax in the nation, it’s not surprising that cigarette use in Missouri exceeds the national average. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 21 percent of Missouri adults smoke, as opposed to the national average of about 17 percent.
American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation
However, smoke-free legislation is gaining speed in Missouri, as is funding for tobacco cessation programs. Organizations such as the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation (ANRF) push for more smoke-free laws in Missouri and throughout the nation.
“We’re dedicated to protecting nonsmokers’ rights to clean air,” said Dan Carrigan, Program Manager at ANRF. “We assist communities in promoting smoke-free air as a right everyone should have.”
Carrigan said changing public perception of secondhand smoke is key to getting smoke-free legislation passed at the local and state level.
“The 2006 Surgeon General’s Report made it clear that secondhand smoke is not a nuisance but a significant hazard,” Carrigan said. “The research is overwhelming. There is no safe level of exposure.”
According to the CDC, only 65 percent of Missouri indoor workers are protected by smoke-free policies, whereas the national average is 71 percent.
“Some people don’t see a bar or a casino as a workplace, because it’s where they go to have fun,” Carrigan said. “But there are people working there, too, and they have the right to clean air.”
Missouri Foundation for Health
Contrary to the ANRF, the Missouri Foundation For Health (MFH), takes no stance on smoke-free laws. Instead, the nonprofit organization focuses on the consequences of healthcare-related legislation if passed.
“We’re a non-partisan organization,” said Matthew Kuhlenbeck, Program Director of Community Health and Prevention at the Missouri Foundation For Health. “We analyze the impact of pending legislation, and adjust our efforts accordingly.”
Kuhlenbeck said MFH aims to improve healthcare in underserved and underinsured communities. The organization, based in St. Louis, serves 84 counties in Missouri.
Tobacco cessation and prevention
In 2004, MFH launched a nine year, $40 million grant program aimed at tobacco cessation and prevention. Although funding will cease in 2013, Kuhlenbeck said the programs they’ve established were created with sustainability in mind.
“We want the programs we put in place to continue on after we leave,” Kuhlenbeck said.
As far as which initiatives are most successful, Kuhlenbeck said programs that utilize non-traditional peer-to-peer education can make a big impact. “We try to empower students to be a voice for change in their communities.”
Lafayette County SWAG
The Lafayette County Students With A Goal (SWAG) program, lead by the Lafayette County Health Department, is one case in point. SWAG is organized by area high school students devoted to educating their communities about the benefits of a tobacco-free lifestyle. Funding is provided in part through a Social Innovation for Missouri (SIM) grant through MFH. Lexington, MO-based Health Care Collaborative of Rural Missouri serves as the fiscal agent.
MFH uses a competitive grant process to select deserving applicants. The organization asks for evidence-based programs supported by a community effort. “We also ask ourselves if the applicant will be effective in evaluating the success of their program,” Kuhlenbeck said.
As of 2012, 23 states have adopted a 100 percent smoke-free law for all non-hospitality workplaces, which includes restaurants and bars. Missouri is not among them, but some cities have passed smoke-free ordinances at the local level. Currently there are 19 smoke-free municipalities in Missouri, including Kansas City, St. Louis and Jefferson City.
Of course, not all the talk about smoke-free legislation is positive. Some opponents claim that such laws or ordinances will hurt business for restaurant and bar owners.
“There’s actually very little opposition,” Carrigan said. “It’s just that the people who oppose it do it very loudly.”
In response, the CDC conducted a study recently addressing these concerns. The CDC observed 11 cities in Missouri, noting each city’s revenue before and after the implementation of a smoke-free ordinance.
The study found that smoke-free ordinances were associated with an increase in revenue in 8 of the 11 cities, while the remaining three cities showed no change. The CDC also cited many benefits for smoke-free workplaces, including increased worker productivity, lower cleaning costs and lower health insurance. Communities can also benefit from a decrease in hospitalizations related to smoking.
The idea is catching on in Missouri, as the state has grown from 1 city with a 100 percent smoke-free law in 2005 to 19 cities in 2012. Now almost half of all Missouri residents live in communities that have a smoke-free ordinance.
However, Carrigan said the right to smoke-free air is a privilege everyone should have, not just half. “The only way to make secondhand smoke safer is to take it outside,” he said. “Any amount of exposure is too much.”
Article written by Michael Freeman