November 15th, 2012
12:01 PM ET
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that significant strides have been made in enacting anti-smoking laws across the United States, but still areas of the country remain that are largely lacking in protective measures against second-hand smoke.
Back in 2000, only one of America's 50 largest cities had laws that prevented people from smoking in bars, restaurants and private workplaces. In 2012, 30 of them were covered by anti-smoking laws, representing a 60% increase.
Also in 2000, there were no states with statewide anti-smoking policies of this nature. By 2010, there were 26 states.
All in all, almost half of the American population is covered by a state or local smoking prevention law, the report said. But there are still large gaps, especially in the South.
"This gap in policy coverage creates disparities in public health protections that are likely to both reflect and contribute to broader tobacco-related population disparities," the report said.
Research shows that smoking bans really do save lives, contributing to fewer hospital visits and deaths.
Of the 20 largest cities that do not have comprehensive smoking laws (i.e. laws that cover workplaces, restaurants and bars), 10 of them are located in the South.
When just looking at state or local policies that ban all smoking in workplaces, restaurants or bars, there are six major cities that the report identifies as totally uncovered: Atlanta, Georgia; Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Fresno, California; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
But that's only taking into account truly comprehensive policies, and does not take into account anti-smoking measures in other settings. For instance, several Atlanta suburbs have adopted ordinances banning smoking in parks, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Georgia state law forbids smoking in restaurants and bars if they serve or employ anyone under age 18, auditoriums, indoor workplaces, medical facilities and classrooms.
Ten states that have less than comprehensive statewide smoking laws do not allow local restrictions on smoking to be different from the state law.
This report, however, has several limitations, including that it does not give credit to laws with partial coverage, such as in Atlanta.
Smoking law information is current as of October 2012, but population data is from the 2010 U.S. Census, the report said. Also, it's unclear how these policies are enforced or observed in the real world. There are also settings where secondhand smoke exposure occurs, such as apartment buildings, that do not necessarily fall under city or state policies.
Although some bars and restaurants may designate nonsmoking sections, the report said the "U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that only completely eliminating smoking in indoor settings fully protects nonsmokers" from secondhand smoke.
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