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Official says health of Oklahomans jeopardized by secondhand smoke


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Secondhand smoke jeopardizes the health of hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans at work and in the home, a state Health Department official says.

``There's now an abundance of scientific evidence that secondhand smoke can cause health problems and even can be fatal,'' said Bob Miner, coordinator of the Health Department's clean indoor air program. ``Secondhand smoke is much more than a benign nuisance that can or should be tolerated.''

Speaking at Rose State College, Miner said more than 300,000 Oklahomans are exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke at work.

Also, the health of about 216,000 Oklahoma children is jeopardized by secondhand smoke because they live in households with at least one adult smoker of cigarettes, cigars or pipes, he said.

He quoted from a paper he co-authored on secondhand smoke that is scheduled for publication in the March edition of the Journal of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. The other co-author is state epidemiologist Dr. Mike Crutcher.

The public, Miner said, still hasn't fully recognized the dangers of secondhand smoke when compared with the smoke inhaled by a smoker.

In reality, Miner said, secondhand smoke has the potential of being more harmful to nonsmokers because secondhand smoke is unfiltered. It has at least 250 detrimental substances and toxins that can cause or trigger cancer, heart disease and respiratory maladies including asthma and bronchitis, he said.

Recent medical studies, he said, have demonstrated smoke from a cigarette's tip and smoke exhaled by a smoker has been found to contribute to sudden infant death syndrome, strokes and respiratory diseases.

It also can have a negative effect on the fetal development and birth weight of a baby.

An Oklahoma Senate committee has passed legislation that would offer tax breaks to restaurants that ban smoking and would expand restrictions against smoking in public places.

Current Oklahoma law allows restaurants to ban smoking, allow smoking or set up no-smoking areas.

Sen. Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee, said his bill faces strong opposition from the tobacco lobby and other interests.

A bill with tougher anti-smoking restrictions was killed in the Oklahoma House when the House Business and Labor Committee refused to consider it. It's author, Rep. Ray Vaughn, R-Edmond, said House leaders assigned it to that committee so it would die, rather than give it to the House's Health Committee.
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