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HealthBeat

10 years of clean indoor air

Public health officials across the state are celebrating 10 years of clean indoor air today.

On Dec. 8, 2005, the state’s Smoking in Public Places law went into effect, banning smoking in all indoor workplaces and public places, including restaurants, bars and non-tribal casinos.

The move made Washington just the 10th state to implement a comprehensive smoke-free indoor air law. Today, 24 states have similar laws in place.

In Washington, the change led to a significant decrease in secondhand smoking exposure and smoking rates, according to health officials.

“Indoor air is cleaner. This law protects health by reducing exposure to harmful secondhand smoke in places that previously allowed smoking,” said Theresa Cross, a health educator at Clark County Public Health, in a news release. “A big policy change like SIPP also helps lower smoking rates by making smoking less convenient and less likely to be copied by others, especially youth.”

From 2005 to 2010, adult smoking rates in Washington dropped from 17.5 percent to 15 percent.

In Clark County, adult smoking rates decreased from 21.4 percent in 2003 to 17.1 percent in 2010.

(A change in how the smoking rate is calculated in 2011 makes it impossible to compare current numbers to those prior to 2011. The current adult smoking rate in Clark County is 17.3 percent.)

The smoking rate among 10th-graders has also decreased locally – from 13.9 percent in 2006 to 10.2 percent now.

Local health officials also report that rates of diseases and conditions related to smoking and secondhand smoke exposure are down. For example, lung cancer diagnoses are down 11 percent and deaths are down 23 percent.

But health officials say there is still work to be done. Cigarette smoking accounts for nearly one in five deaths in the state each year; about 8,000 adults will die each year from smoking, according to health officials.

Earlier this year, Clark County extended the Smoking in Public Places law to include electronic inhalant delivery devices (such as e-cigarettes and vapor pens).

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at marissa.harshman@columbian.com or 360-735-4546.

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