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Marion County Pleased With First Year of Smoke Free Workplace Law

Armen Hareyan's picture

Marion County health officials are pleased with the first year of the smoke free workplace ordinance. The law, passed by the Indianapolis City-County Council in May 2005, went into effect March 1, 2006.

According to compliance data generated from complaint referrals and routine inspections by the Marion County Health Department Food Safety and Water Quality and Environmental Health departments, businesses and food establishments are complying with the law.

"We know Indianapolis is a healthier community because of the smoke free workplace law," said Virginia A. Caine, M.D., director, Marion County Health Department. "The cooperation of the community has made this law a success story for our city," said Dr. Caine.

Health officials predicted that after an early transition period, the law would be self-enforcing. Data indicates 163 of the 209 complaints received from March 1, 2006 through February 16, 2007 were made in the first six months. Only 46 complaints have been received in the last six months.

"Our Smoke Free Indy coalition partners did an outstanding job of educating our community and businesses. This sense of cooperation has led to the high rate of compliance we have documented in the last year," said Dr. Caine.

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Compliance data from March 1, 2006 to February 16, 2007:

Number of complaints: 209
Number of fines: 8
Number of court cases: 2
Number of exempted establishments: 387

"As we expected, compliance with the law has been high, and most businesses were able to adapt without much effort," said Missy Lewis, Public Policy Chair for Smoke Free Indy. "Because of this law, thousands of employees in Indianapolis have been able to go to work without putting their health in jeopardy. We look forward to the day when no one in Indianapolis is denied this protection," said Lewis.

"Every year between 950-1,690 Hoosier deaths are attributed to secondhand smoke. Workers exposed to secondhand smoke are at risk for heart disease, cancer, respiratory problems, stroke, and eye and nasal irritation," said Dr. Caine.

The economic costs associated with secondhand smoke are equally dramatic. In 2002, at least $16.7 million were spent for the hospitalization and health care of Marion County residents with secondhand smoke exposure-caused deaths. Increased medical costs, higher insurance rates, lower productivity, and high absentee rates can be attributed to tobacco use by local workers.

According to an indoor air monitoring study commissioned by the Smoke Free Indy Coalition from the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, data indicates the air quality in Indianapolis establishments that have been smoke free in the last year has improved. The indoor air monitoring results included:

  • The average level of fine particle indoor air pollution declined 85% after the Indianapolis ordinance went into effect in those venues that went smoke-free as a result of the law.
  • Businesses that went smoke free saw a decline in the level of fine particle air pollution after the law went into effect.
  • Places that are exempt from the provisions of the Indianapolis ordinance and that continued to allow indoor smoking experienced no change in indoor air pollution and still have unhealthy air according to U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. During the coming year, the Marion County Health Department will continue to educate the community on the health risks associated with tobacco products and second hand smoke. Part of this process will include promotion of free smoking cessation classes offered by the health department and other agencies.