Secondhand Smoke Declared Toxic by California
California declares second hand smoke toxic
February 9, 2006 7:29 PM
California became the first state to designate secondhand smoke as a Toxic Air Contaminant, placing it in the same category as arsenic and diesel fumes.
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) announced this new distinction three weeks ago after a comprehensive report on exposure and health impacts of secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).
The next step is for the ARB to review the scientific findings of the research and determine if there are possible regulations that should be imposed to control secondhand smoke exposure.
The report, conducted by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, said that in California, 4,000 people die from the effects of secondhand smoke every year.
The ARB specifically raised concerns about ETS causing adverse effects on the health of women and children who are exposed to tobacco smoke. According to the ARB spokesperson, Dimitri Stanich, the report found that in addition to secondhand smoke increasing the likelihood of heart disease, lung cancer and asthma, asthma, young women’s risk of developing breast cancer increases by 68 percent to 120 percent.
The ARB cited that tobacco smoking releases 40 tons of nicotine and 1,900 tons of carbon monoxide into the environment every year.
The study also found that while only 16 percent of Californians smoke, 56 percent of adults and 64 percent of adolescents are exposed to secondhand smoke.
SF State already has a strict policy regarding smoking on campus and has prohibited the sale of tobacco products. In 2004, SF State became a smoke-free campus allowing people to light up only in designated areas.
According to Albert Angelo, a health educator with the Student Health Center (SHC) and a member of the SF State Smoking Policy Task Force, the new distinction of smoke as a toxic substance will hopefully help their cause. Angelo and the SHC offer counseling and advice for students who want to quit smoking.
“If I was a parent and I read that secondhand smoke was a toxic substance, it would be real hard to smoke around my kids knowing that,” said Angelo.
Regulations by the ARB may focus on smoking in cars and homes, although the details will not be known until after the board completes a risk management process.
“Secondhand smoke is a major concern in houses and cars due to the smaller space and smoke concentrating in fabrics,” Stanich said. “There is 30 times more nicotine concentrated in a car compared with the house of a smoker.”
However, some SF State students begged to differ.
“Regulating smoking in a car or in your home would be ridiculous,” said 23-year-old psychology major Dennis Woo. “That would be pushing it,” he added with a grimace.
Rachel Brunn, a graphic design major, also thinks that regulating smoking in people’s homes and cars would be going a little too far.
“There should never be regulations on people’s personal environment, unless it harms children,” Brunn said.
One student questioned just how California would go about enforcing a new smoking law.
“What are they going to do, have people on smoke patrol?” asked 22-year-old political science major Joseph Maniego. “It’s going to be really hard to enforce a law that limits smoking at a statewide level.”
Angelo said that he does not think that there will be much change to the current SF State smoking policy since it’s already quite progressive in terms of limiting the accessibility of smoking on campus.
Although discussion has started regarding these types of smoking laws, Stanich said that most likely, smoking laws would remain the same for several years. California, and San Francisco in particular, already set a worldwide example of a place where smoking is strongly discouraged.
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