Half of all states and the District of Columbia now have comprehensive bans on smoking in restaurants, bars and the workplace, federal officials said Thursday — an extraordinary pace of progress, considering that just over a decade ago, no state had enacted such a ban.
If the adoption of smoking bans continues at the current rate, it’s possible that nearly all 50 states may have laws in place by 2020. “It is by no means a foregone conclusion that we’ll get there by 2020,” said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office on Smoking and Health, according to the AP. “I’m relatively bullish we’ll at least get close to that number.”
In 2002, Delaware became the first state in the nation to ban smoking in all three venues — bars, restaurants and private workplaces — followed soon thereafter by New York (2003), Massachusetts (2004), and Rhode Island and Washington (2005). Starting in 2006, the trend gained momentum, with 20 more states enacting comprehensive smoking bans by 2010.
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Ten other states currently have laws banning smoking in one or two, but not all three venues. Eight states have less restrictive indoor smoking laws, allowing smoking in designated and separately ventilated areas, for instance.
Notably, seven states still have no statewide restrictions on indoor smoking. And none of the states with comprehensive bans are in the South.
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The state and local bans that are currently in place protect nearly half (47.8%) of U.S. residents, the CDC estimated, but about 88 million people age 3 or older are still exposed to secondhand smoke. Evidence suggests that smoking bans substantially improve indoor air quality and reduce secondhand smoke exposure; they also help smokers quit and may even help reduce heart attack rates in adults and rates of severe asthma attacks in children.
The CDC report suggests that even in the 26 states that have comprehensive smoke-free laws in effect, protections could be strengthened. Smoking in casinos still exposes employees to secondhand smoke, for instance. And people who light up in their apartments routinely expose their neighboring nonsmokers to secondhand smoke. One recent study by researchers at the University of Rochester found that up to 99% of children living in apartment buildings had a tobacco byproduct in their blood — a result of secondhand-smoke exposure.
(More on Time.com: 99% of Apartment-Dwelling Children Exposed to Secondhand Smoke)
“All states that have not done so already could protect the health of their residents by adopting laws that prohibit smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars,” the CDC report advises, noting that progress in Southern states is lagging.