Although most Oklahomans breathe easier within the comforts of home sweet home, things can turn sour in a hurry when it comes to secondhand smoke and its effect on indoor air quality.
The facts are pretty clear. Secondhand smoke is a major health hazard, especially to infants and toddlers. That is why families are strongly encouraged to declare their homes and vehicles smoke free.
One of the major places where kids and adults are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke is at home. Oklahomans are getting some help clearing the air in public spaces. An executive order signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in February prohibits the use of tobacco products on state property, including buildings, land and vehicles. The ban leaves families across the state free to focus on improving the air they breathe in their homes and cars.
The first step in going smoke free on the home front is to not allow anyone, including family members, guests and visitors, to smoke in the house or while riding in a family vehicle. This is a very deliberate choice. You can choose to not smoke in your house or car and you can choose to no allow others to do the same. However, families do not have to stop there. Smoke-free policies can include using childcare providers who do not smoke, avoiding restaurants and other public indoor places that do allow smoking and teaching children to stay away from secondhand smoke.
Besides protecting loved ones, this basic strategy has a few other side benefits.
Creating a smoke-free environment at home can actually provide incentive and encouragement for smokers who are trying to quit, and help deter teens from becoming smokers.
Establishing smoke-free policies at home is not a new trend in Oklahoma, but it is one that has plenty of room to expand. According to state-specific data from the Centers for Disease Control, about 71 percent of homes in the state had smoke-free policies in 2010, compared to nearly 78 percent nationally. Improving that number is important for a couple of reasons. Secondhand smoke from tobacco products has been linked to a host of serious and potentially fatal conditions such as asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, bronchitis and pneumonia, ear infections, lung cancer and heart disease. Approximately 700 Oklahomans die annually from causes attributed to exposure to secondhand smoke, according to Smoke-Free Oklahoma. That is equal to the number of people who perish in motor vehicle accidents each year.
Further, curbing the use of tobacco products inside is the only way to effectively combat the effect of secondhand smoke on indoor air quality. Separating smokers and nonsmokers, such as in “no smoking” sections in restaurants, reduces exposure, but does not fully eliminate it, nor does moving to another room, opening a window or using fans or the air conditioners.
There is no safe level of exposure. The only way to completely protect your family from the dangers of secondhand smoke is to prohibit smoking indoors. It’s one of the most important commitments you can make for your family’s continued good health.