Smoking ban shows positive early results

January 3, 2012
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Smoking ban shows positive early results

Courtney Culey - Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan’s 18-month-old ban on smoking in restaurants is allowing patrons to breathe cleaner air.

A recent study found a 93 percent reduction in air pollutants given off by secondhand smoke in restaurants across the state, said Teri Wilson, public health research and evaluation consultant with the tobacco section at the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Officials anticipated the Smoke Free Air Law would be passed and tested restaurant air to gauge its effectiveness, Wilson said. Seventy-seven restaurants from 13 cities were tested for air quality between 2005 and 2008. Those cities include: Ann Arbor, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Marquette, Midland, Novi, Saginaw, Sault Ste. Marie, Traverse City and West Branch.

After the law went into effect May 1, 2010, they were re-tested, Wilson said. The agency declined to name the venues that were tested.

Three casinos in Detroit were also included in the study, said Angela Minicuci, public information officer for the Michigan Department of Community Health. Casinos are exempt from the ban, which kept the reduction of indoor air pollutants from reaching 100 percent.

What does this mean for Michigan?

“It means that employees, patrons and visitors that we have that come in to our restaurants are breathing in cleaner air,” Wilson said. “It means healthier residents.”

Air quality is an indirect measure of the health impact of the ban, she said. “We can say there is an improvement in air quality; hopefully, that will lead to better health outcomes.”

It is too soon to quantify the health benefits, but the agency is putting together a study to figure out if hospitalizations for heart problems have declined since the ban, Wilson said.

The department is also planning on doing an economic impact study of the ban, she said. The goal is to measure the overall impact of the Smoke-Free Air Law.

A 12-month survey by the American Cancer Society concluded that more than 90 percent of residents support it, Wilson said.

The Michigan Restaurant Association opposed the ban before it was passed, said Justin Winslow, vice president of public affairs at the association. Many of the association’s members had already transitioned to smoke-free establishments because their customers wanted it, he said.

“We had argued, why does government need to necessarily put a mandate on something that was already naturally occurring in the private sector?” Winslow said.

State health authorities say the No. 1 reason for the ban was to improve public health.

“That was something that was immediately accomplished by the ban within the first year,” said Minicuci.

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