Smoking Ban Passed in 26 States, But Southern States Are Lagging, CDC Says

Apr 21, 2011, 15:20 by Greg Stacy

Smoking bans in workplaces, restaurants and bars have passed in 26 states, but a government report says southern states are lagging.

On Thursday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report detailing the smoking bans that have swept the country in the last 10 years.

"In the span of 10 years, smoke-free workplaces, restaurants and bars went from being relatively rare to being the norm in half of the states and District of Columbia," researchers stated in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality report.

But the report reveals that many southern states still allow smoking at their workplaces, bars and restaurants.

As of December 21, 2010, 26 of the states have passed comprehensive smoke-free laws, the CDC said. Nearly half of US residents, 47.8%, are now covered by state or local smoke-free laws. Researchers say that of current trends continue, by the year 2020 America could be 100% smoke-free.

But states in the South and areas of the West have struggled against comprehensive, statewide smoking bans. Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming all have no laws forbidding smoking in private workplaces, restaurants and bars. According to the CDC, that leaves approximately 88 million nonsmokers in the nation who are still being exposed to the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Only three states in the south - Florida, Louisiana, and North Carolina - have laws forbidding smoking in any two of the three venues (workplaces, restaurants and bars) and none of the southern states has a smoke-free law covering all three.

"We must zero in on those areas that continue to lag despite studies that show smoke-free policies benefit public health and the local economy with lower health care costs," Nancy Brown, chief executive of the American Heart Association, said in a statement.

According to CDC figures, every year secondhand smoke causes an estimated 46,000 deaths from heart disease and 3,400 lung cancer deaths among nonsmoking adults in the US.