COLUMBUS — Since Ohio voters approved a statewide indoor smoking ban in 2006, experts can point to a host of resulting benefits — but a significantly reduced adult smoking rate isn’t one of them.
The statewide ban, the first in the Midwest, took effect 10 years ago this week.
Ellen Hahn, director of the Kentucky Center for Smoke-free Policy, said research has found such bans dramatically improve air quality and reduce emergency visits for asthma and emphysema and hospitalizations for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. They also have been linked to reduced heart attack rates and improvements in the health of restaurant and bar workers.
“Ohio did the right thing 10 years ago,” the University of Kentucky nursing professor said.
Yet the state’s adult smoking rate began and ended the decade barely changed. It was 23.1 percent in 2007 and 21.6 percent last year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national rate is 15.1 percent.
The rate has fluctuated by a few percentage points over the years, but has not reflected the significant decline seen at the national level during the same period.
Smoker Jerald Taylor, a grocery worker from Columbus, said the ban has been little more than an inconvenience for him.
“It didn’t make me want to change,” he said. “It’s a ban on smoking in front of certain places and in restaurants, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop smoking.”
The American Lung Association attributes the lack of change in rates to two primary factors: Low tobacco tax rates and inadequate spending on cessation programs.
The group’s State of Tobacco Control report, published last month, noted that Ohio spends only a fraction of the $132 million a year on tobacco prevention recommended by the CDC. The roughly $45 million a year the state was spending in fiscal 2007 and 2008 dipped to about $6 million a year in fiscal 2009 and 2010, according to the report, and zeroed out for the next three years.
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