Second-hand smoke has dangers
Today I saw a 5-year-old girl who coughs every night. We have been treating her with several medications for weeks with only modest improvement. She lives with her mother who does not smoke. Today I learned that an uncle is visiting the home regularly and smokes in the house. Eureka! That’s why we can’t get her well.
You don’t have to be a smoker for smoking to harm you. Secondhand smoke contains more than 50 substances that can cause cancer, respiratory tract infections and heart disease. There is no safe amount of secondhand smoke. Children, pregnant women, older people and people with heart or breathing problems are especially vulnerable.
Tobacco use and secondhand smoke continue to be the single most preventable cause of premature death and disease in the United States. Each year, more than 7,500 Alabamians die from smoking-related causes and another 850 die from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Annual health care expenditures in Alabama directly caused by tobacco use tops $1.49 billion while expenditures on secondhand smoke costs Alabamians another $86 million.
We can protect our citizens from the dangers of tobacco use and secondhand smoke and lower our economic burden by increasing the state tobacco tax and adopting a statewide smoke-free law. The Alabama state tobacco tax of $0.425 per pack ranks 46th in the nation. Raising it to the national average of $1.34 could make cigarettes too expensive for younger buyers while prompting older smokers to reconsider buying tobacco products. The tax increase could pay for more tobacco control programs and offset the cost of medical expenditures by the state. Fewer smokers plus a statewide law prohibiting smoking in public places and worksites would protect us for secondhand smoke. The majority of Alabamians are nonsmokers and there is no reputable study that shows smoke-free laws are bad for business. In fact, 27 states now have a smoke-free law to protect workers and the public.
Let’s protect all Alabamians from the dangers of secondhand smoke by increasing state tobacco taxes and making our public places, restaurants, and worksites smoke-free. By doing so, Alabamians will be healthier and wealthier in the future.
Marsha D. Raulerson, M.Ed., M.D., F.A.A.P., Pediatrician, Lower Alabama Pediatrics