“Yes” on Proposition N is a vote for a clean, healthy community

Martha Bhattacharya | Op-Ed Submission

Imagine if, in a single minute of your time, you could help lessen the incidence of lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory illnesses in St. Louis County. Would you act?

Well, you can. All you have to do is vote “yes” for Proposition N on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

On the St. Louis County ballot this year is a measure called Proposition N that would restrict indoor smoking in the county.

Thirty-seven states have restrictions on indoor smoking; 24 of these are outright bans, including one in Illinois. Missouri, however, is far behind the curve. Our state has the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation and the third worst smoking rate in the nation. We have been graded as having an “F” by the American Lung Association.

In most states, bans happen progressively, starting at the local level. Here in St. Louis, the movement toward cleaner air for all is happening now. St. Louis County is the most populous county in the state of Missouri, so what we do is heard loudly in Jefferson City.

In the past few weeks, a number of scientific reports have given support to the health benefits of restricting indoor smoking. The most recent, by the Institute of Medicine (the health branch of the National Academies of Science), published Oct. 16, finds that there are no safe levels of secondhand smoke, and that even brief exposure can cause acute symptoms of lung and heart dysfunction. Another study published Sept. 21 from the University of California, San Francisco, found that in places where indoor smoking bans are passed, the rate of heart attacks drops 17 percent in the first year when compared to places without bans. This rate increases to a more than 36 percent drop over three years.

Opponents of this measure argue that it will reduce revenue for businesses with smoking customers. There is some controversy in public opinion on this topic, but the facts are clear that there is no effect on businesses. One particularly convincing study is from the University of Michigan. Their group reviewed 86 previous studies on the topic of smoking and business revenue and found that almost all high-quality studies done find no lasting economic impact of legislation eliminating indoor smoking. Think about this on a personal level: Would you be more likely to go watch the Cardinals play in a smoke-filled sports bar or a smoke-free one? Businesses will also gain revenue from the people that have been avoiding them due to their smoke-friendly policies.

Proposition N will eliminate indoor smoking in public workplaces, restaurants and more than 94 percent of establishments with liquor licenses in St. Louis County. It will go a long way toward improving the health of workers in these establishments and the health of the patrons of these businesses.

We need your help to make sure this important health measure passes! Any student interested in politics, or in the health and wellness of our area, should e-mail propn​[email protected] to get more information about upcoming events. You can also find out more by going to the Facebook site for “Citizens for a Smoke-Free County” or subscribing to the Twitter feed for “STLCleanAir.”

Last year, many of you registered to vote in St. Louis County in order to make a difference in the choice of our president. Please don’t let your civic responsibility stop there. Make a difference in the health and wellness of your fellow students and your community off campus. Vote “yes” on Proposition N on Nov. 3.

Martha is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the School of Medicine. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

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