Radioactive Smoke and Indoor Clean Air Ordinance

I always wondered why anyone would smoke or even breathe smoke-filled air considering the overwhelming scientific evidence that smoking and breathing smoke-filled air is harmful to your health. Of course, part of the answer is that smoking is an addiction, and sometimes breathing smoke-filled air is not an option if you work at a place where others smoke.

Cirgarette Ashes

A recent article, “Radioactive Smoke” in the January 2011 edition of Scientific American, scientifically nails this point by noting that in the 1960s, when we were in the midst of the Cold War, scientists were testing the radioactivity of just about everything. An inquisitive scientist tested the ash from a burnt cigarette and determined that it had no radioactivity even though it was known that tobacco contained radioactive material.

Where did the radioactive material go? Well, it was in the smoke that went right straight into the lungs of the smoker and into the air that everyone in the room was breathing. The article notes that the smoker’s dosage from the radioactive material was equivalent, on an annual basis, to 300 chest x-rays for each smoking year.

It is hard to imagine why anyone would continue to smoke in the face of this evidence or voluntarily stay in the same smoke-filled room. The reality is that blowing radioactive smoke in the air which others breathe is nasty, and sorry there are no free passes for those who blow radioactive smoke in the air, which others are forced to breathe. Of course, radioactivity in cigarette smoke is just one of hundreds of harmful products in the smoke, although it resonates a clearer cord than other harmful tobacco byproducts in cigarette smoke.

There is strong evidence that adopting smoke free ordinances has a significant impact on the public health of a community. A study by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology reports that heart attacks declined significantly, 17% in cities that adopted smoke-free workplace laws and that nonsmoker’s had a 25-30 % increase in their heart attack risk if exposed to smoke while at work. As of December 1, 2010 some 18 communities in Missouri have adopted Clean Air Ordinances and 8 others are in the process of considering ordinances. The smoke free ordinance in Kansas City, Mo. has “slashed indoor air pollution from cigarettes by 94%” in some 12 bars and has not had a “statistically significant impact on taxable sales in eating and drinking restaurants” according to a recent study of the Health Foundation of Kansas City.

Recently, the movement has arrived in Springfield, with support from Clean Air Springfield and One Air Alliance. Springfield is attempting to follow in the footsteps of other communities in Missouri such as Columbia, Kansas City and Lees Summit. The first attempt by the clean air proponents was a Springfield City Council initiated ordinance, which was amended by the City Council leading clean air advocates to conclude that the amendments gutted the ordinance resulting in the withdrawal of the ordinance. Clean air proponents regrouped and gathered enough signatures for an initiative requiring the City Council to submit a clean-air ordinance to the voters on  April 5, 2011. It will be interesting to see what Springfield voters will do when presented with a choice to adopt a clean-air ordinance.

Legal challenges to local ordinances in Missouri have not been successful. A challenge to a Kansas City ordinance on the grounds that health officers could not issue a summons failed. It is pretty  obvious that the opponents attacked the ordinance on a technicality since a direct frontal assault was unlikely to succeed.

The information provided in this Post is not intended to constitute legal advice. (©) 2011 Howard Wright

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