airport-no-smoking-smallAdvocates on Monday hailed a law enacted 25 years ago banning smoking on domestic airlines as the catalyst for smoke-free workplace laws that exist today.

The law passed a quarter of a century ago when the dangers of secondhand smoke weren’t well known.

“We knew it was harmful, but we didn’t know then that 38,000 Americans were dying every year from cardiovascular disease because they were around other smokers,” said American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown. “We would have to wait sixteen years for the Surgeon General to declare in 2006 that ‘the debate is over – secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard.’”

Matthew L. Meyers, president of the Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids called the law’s passage as “the catalyst for one of the greatest public health transformations in history.”

Hundreds of states and local communities have passed strong smoke-free laws since 1990, with about 50 percent of Americans now living in states or communities with comprehensive smoke-free laws, according to the AHA.

“Our challenge today is to finish the job and make all workplaces and public places smoke-free,” said Myers.

Brown agreed, saying more needs to be done to prevent secondhand smoke exposure.

“Those who work in the hospitality industry, especially bar and casino employees, are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke at work,” she said. “Every American has the right to breathe smoke-free air.”

“E-cigarettes should be included in smoke-free laws, and the U.S. Department of Transportation should issue a long-awaited final rule prohibiting e-cigarette use on airplanes,” added Meyers.

One in four non-smoking Americans are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to a February report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It found the highest exposure was among children, African-Americans, those who live in poverty, and those living in rental housing. States in the South have lagged in enacting smoke-free laws.

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