Health Advocacy Groups Oppose Efforts to Weaken Smoke-Free Protections at the Iowa Veterans Home

Proposed bill would expose Veteran residents and employees to second-hand smoke, put their health at risk

A group of public health and advocacy organizations strongly opposes a bill introduced to the state Senate that would expand smoking at the Iowa Veterans Home. A committee passed Senate Study Bill 1080 on Wednesday.

There’s no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. This legislation will expand exemptions to Iowa’s smoke-free law, putting the health of veteran residents at risk by exposing them to secondhand smoke.

In the midst of this pandemic, when standing up for public health is of the utmost priority, particularly respiratory health, we ask our lawmakers to categorically reject any efforts to undermine Iowa’s smoke-free law. There’s no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke; opening the door to expand exemptions is simply bad policy that could prove fatal.

Veterans have sacrificed their lives to protect and defend our nation. It’s our turn to keep them, their families and visitors safe from the dangers of tobacco use. With three in ten veterans using tobacco regularly, this community already faces an increased risk for lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases. Ensuring their right to breathe clean, smoke-free air is not infringed, is one way to help reduce that disproportionate and unacceptable burden.

This legislation would not only put veteran residents at risk, it would also threaten the health of the more than 900 Iowa Veterans Home employees. Job-related exposure to secondhand smoke is a significant, but entirely preventable, cause of premature death among U.S. workers. No one should have to choose between their health and a good job.

Tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death and disability in this country. Additionally, smoking increases a person’s risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Smoking also increases risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Veterans have reported higher numbers of cardiovascular disease conditions at younger ages (ages 25 to 70 years) than nonveteran counterparts. Caretakers and residents deserve to be protected from exposure to nicotine.

Smoke-free laws protect workers and patrons from exposure to secondhand smoke and reduce the acceptability of smoking which, in turn, reduce the number of people, especially youth, who start smoking and increases quitting by those who smoke. The increased protection and reduced acceptability of smoking have led to lower smoking rates and improved health status, including fewer heart attacks and cancers.

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

American Heart Association

American Lung Association

Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights

Clean Air for Everyone Iowa, Citizen Actions Network

For more information, contact:

James A. Martinez
(312) 445-2501
[email protected]

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