GREENCASTLE -- Two-thirds of residents in rural communities in Indiana support a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law that eliminates secondhand smoke in all workplaces, including bars and restaurants, according to new public opinion survey data released recently by the Indiana Rural Health Association (IRHA).
The public opinion data, collected and analyzed by the IU Survey Research Center, found that across rural communities in Indiana, 66 percent of rural Hoosiers support a law making all workplaces, including bars, restaurants and membership clubs, smoke-free.
According to Meredith Williams, program director of Putnam County Tobacco Prevention and Cessation, the numbers and the message to policymakers speak very clearly: rural Hoosiers are ready for all workplaces, including bars, to be smoke free.
"This new survey data measuring support for a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law just shows that people in rural communities in Indiana overwhelmingly support a smoke-free law that protects all workers, just like people in the rest of Indiana," Williams said. "We value the lives of our workers -- who are also our neighbors, friends and family -- here in Putnam County just as much as people in any of the dozen Indiana communities with a comprehensive smoke-free law or the majority of the states in the U.S. with comprehensive statewide smoke-free laws."
The survey also found that, on average, 85 percent of rural Hoosiers believe that workers should be protected from secondhand smoke exposure in all workplaces, with even 60 percent of current smokers in agreement.
Support for comprehensive smoke-free laws overwhelming in rural Indiana.
The survey research, released Oct. 7 by IRHA, examined public opinions about smoke-free policies in representative rural communities as part of the Indiana Collaborative for Healthier Rural Communities project spearheaded by IRHA.
"People in rural Indiana definitely support comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws because they are exactly the kind of common sense Hoosier value we find in rural Indiana. People shouldn't have to suffer harm caused by someone else's tobacco use," said Don Kelso, IRHA Executive Director. "Rural Hoosiers just want to do their jobs and provide for their families, and they should not have to risk having their lives cut short or health jeopardized by this preventable health threat."
Secondhand smoke is proven to be a serious health risk.
In 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a conclusive report that says secondhand smoke causes heart disease, lung cancer and other respiratory problems.
The 2006 report says that even the most advanced state-of-the-art ventilation or filtration, smoking rooms and separation of smokers and nonsmokers cannot eliminate the health risk caused by secondhand smoke.
The report also found that even brief exposure is proven to be harmful and that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
The survey showed that over half (53 percent) of rural adult Hoosiers would continue to eat out as often as they do now if all establishments were smoke free and 31 percent said they would eat out more often.
Only 15 percent said they would eat out less. This represents a net gain of 15 percent in potential business.
Williams summarized the IRHA report by asking "So why are Putnam County's workers and the public at large still left out of such a simple, common sense policy to protect us from secondhand smoke?"