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Here’s the press release from the Buncombe County Dept. of Health:
Asheville – A new study shows that exposure to secondhand smoke is expensive in North Carolina, costing $293 million per year in health care costs alone. An estimated 1,690 adult nonsmokers die every year in North Carolina as a direct result from secondhand smoke exposure.
The study, found in the February 2011 issue of the North Carolina Medical Journal, uses proof from the 2006 U.S. Surgeon General’s Report that secondhand smoke exposure is very harmful and causes many health problems, including low birth weight, heart disease, stroke, asthma, and several types of cancer.
North Carolina’s highly successful smoke-free restaurants and bars law that went into effect in January 2010 may have reduced these costs. The law has reduced worker exposure to secondhand smoke on- the- job by 42 percent from 14.6 in 2008 to 8.4 percent during the first three quarters of 2010.
“This law has improved indoor air quality and contributed to better health in our county” said Gibbie Harris, Buncombe County Health Director. “The more places that become smoke-free, the more we can improve the health of our residents and lower medical costs. We have had great success with the law with only 47 complaints reported since it began,” stated Harris. “We have educated those businesses that have been reported with violations, and have helped them come into compliance without needing to administer any fines.”
Though a majority of people affected by secondhand smoke in North Carolina are children, treatment for heart disease represents the greatest financial cost, accounting for almost half of all health care costs caused by secondhand smoke.
The second most costly item was treatment for low birth weight infants, which represented nearly one-quarter of all costs.
According to the study, smoke-free regulations are shown to reduce short-term health care costs for heart attack treatment, and may reduce costs similarly for asthma and ear infections in children. “This study supports the fact that secondhand smoke is harmful to everyone,” said Ms. Harris. “We need to do all we can to protect everyone in our community from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.”