Effects of Smoke-Free Workplaces Waft into Homes

Tough Calif. law inspires smokers to snuff them at residences

MONDAY, April 29, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- California's strict anti-smoking laws have taken hold in the state's workplaces and are inspiring citizens to snuff out cigarettes in their own homes.

A survey released today found that 73 percent of private homes banned smoking in 1999, more than double the number in 1992. Over the same time period, the percentage of children who lived in smoke-free homes grew from 38 percent to 82 percent.

The survey results suggest that "many more children are protected [from smoking] in California than almost any other state," says study author Elizabeth Gilpin, director of the biostatistics shared resource at the Cancer Center of the University of California at San Diego.

The study also found the percentage of smoke-free workplaces skyrocketed, from 35 percent in 1990 to more than 93 percent in 1999.

California bans smoking in most indoor spaces, including workplaces, restaurants and even bars and clubs -- with a few exceptions.

The laws in almost all other states are much more permissive. As of late last year, only Vermont and Utah forbid all smoking inside restaurants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty states, mostly in the South, placed no restrictions on smoking in restaurants; 28 allowed or required designated nonsmoking areas.

In the California study, adults were surveyed by phone in 1992, 1996 and 1999. The state's workplace laws took effect in 1994, and the ban on smoking in bars began in 1998.

Researchers interviewed 14,729 people by phone in the 1999 survey. The findings appear in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

About one in three bar and restaurant workers reported being exposed to secondhand smoke on the job, leading the researchers to suggest that police boost enforcement of anti-smoking laws.

"The laws are working, but you have to be vigilant about keeping the public up to date," Gilpin says.

However, the survey didn't ask if the workers were employed in restaurants and bars that set aside areas for smoking. California allows smoking in outdoor patios at businesses where people eat and drink. It is also the only state that forbids smoking indoors at restaurants but allows it if a smoking room has a separate ventilation system.

It's not clear why so many private homes have banned smoking in California. However, the numbers are clearly going up, and the 1999 survey found that nearly half of adult smokers themselves live in homes where they aren't allowed to light up inside.

"The population is becoming more aware and more used to restrictions at work, and more willing to adopt them at home," Gilpin says.

Dr. Gary Wong, a health education specialist with the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health plan, agrees.

The laws have "changed some of the social and community norms around smoking. In the past, people thought as long as they were nonsmokers, it [smoking] was something that didn't pertain to them. There's much more of an awareness that there are a great deal of hazards," he says.

What To Do: To learn about smoking laws in your state, check out this map from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For another perspective on anti-smoking laws, visit Smokers Fighting Discrimination Inc.

SOURCES: Elizabeth Gilpin, M.S., director, biostatistics shared resource, Cancer Center, professor, biostatistics, University of California, San Diego; Gary Wong, M.D., M.P.H., regional physician coordinator, health education and preventive care, Kaiser Permanente Southern California, Los Angeles; May 2002 American Journal of Public Health
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