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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Smoke-Free Texas: Good for Our Health, Good for Our Economy

Debra Patt, MD, MPH
“As a practicing oncologist, I can tell you that just less than an hour ago I was treating a tobacco-related disease,” Debra Patt, MD, MPH, chair of the Texas Medical Association’s Committee on Cancer told legislative staff and community health care leaders today at the Texas Public Health Coalition’s (TPHC's) University of Health forum.

Today — the 37th anniversary of the Great American Smokeout Day — TPHC focused on the physical and fiscal effects of tobacco use in Texas. Dr. Patt says tobacco use is the single greatest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the state, killing more than 24,000 Texans, both smokers and nonsmokers (through second-hand smoke).

When cities, counties, and states go smoke-free, citizens live longer, healthier lives. When Olmsted County, Minn., passed a public smoking ban in 2002, heart attack rates plummeted 33 percent. Dr. Patt says Texas could see a similar trend if it passes a statewide smoke-free workplace law. “Adopting a comprehensive smoking ban in Texas would reduce the number of smokers by almost 33,000 and save Texas at least $250 million each biennium,” she said.

The Honorable Mike May
Mike May, former Colorado House minority leader, spoke at the University of Health Forum on his own state’s efforts to curb tobacco-related health problems. In 2006, the former state representative authored legislation making Colorado a smoke-free state. “The world didn’t end, and we [Coloradans] are a lot healthier,” he said.

“We regulate restaurants beyond belief. You can’t have a speck of anything on a little piece of lettuce but you can fill your employees’ lungs full of cigarette smoke? That’s essentially what is happening in places that have not passed a ban.” The reasons for protecting employees and nonsmoking consumers from cigarette smoke outweighed any argument against a ban, Mr. May told the forum.

As Texas legislators head back to the Capitol for the state’s 83rd legislative session, Texas physicians urge legislators to invest in tobacco prevention and cessation. “Tobacco use is costly for individuals, costly for the health care system, and costly for Texas’ economy,” said Dr. Patt.

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