From Our Team
Posted on December 4, 2017 by Jana Renner
This year, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation joins a consortium of partners to celebrate a milestone that has improved our community’s health and quality of life – fifteen years of clean indoor air. Fifteen years ago, in 2002, El Paso became the first Texas city to adopt a Clean Indoor Air Ordinance. Since then, El Pasoans have enjoyed smoke-free restaurants and bars and employees have enjoyed smoke-free work environments. The adoption of the ordinance was revolutionary at the time yet smoke-free indoor spaces is now the norm. In fact, my teenagers do not remember a time they’ve eaten in smoke-filled restaurants and very rarely are they exposed to cigarette smoke.
As we know today, there are serious health consequences associated with breathing secondhand smoke. Exposure to secondhand smoke causes coronary heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to develop ear infections, have frequent and severe asthma attacks, and have a respiratory illness. The Surgeon General asserts that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. Filters and opening windows do not protect people from the exposure. Cigarette smoke can even travel through ventilation systems in apartment buildings and affect families that share walls with individuals who smoke indoors.
El Paso and surrounding municipalities continue to lead the way in protecting our community from exposure to secondhand smoke. The City of Socorro went smoke-free in 2007, and the Town of Anthony adopted an ordinance this year. In 2014, El Paso and Socorro updated their ordinances to include e-cigarettes and El Paso banned smoking on City-owned properties including city parks. An added benefit to smoke-free parks is the decrease in cigarette litter in children’s play areas. The Hospitals of Providence and University Medical Center adopted smoke-free policies to help protect patients and visitors from secondhand smoke exposure. The University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso County, two of El Paso’s largest employers, have adopted tobacco-free policies on their campuses. And, public housing communities under the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso implemented no smoking policies in 2015, protecting hundreds of residents in their homes. The Smoke Free Network would like to work with private apartment owners to bring more smoke-free living options to the community.
El Paso has seen a dramatic decrease in smoking rates since the adoption of the Clean Air Ordinance. In 2002, when the ordinance was implemented, the adult smoking rate was 24%. As of 2015, this rate declined to 13.8%, well ahead of the national rate of 17.5%. Even more importantly, El Paso is now experiencing a measurable decrease in the incidence of lung cancer.
Congratulations and thank you to the leaders in our community who have made smoke-free environments a priority. It’s been a great fifteen years. We are healthier for it.
A Smoke Free Paso del Norte is an initiative of the Paso del Norte Health Foundation. To learn how to take your apartment or rental properties smoke-free, contact Nora Hernandez or Annette Torres at 915-747-5072 . For help to quit smoking, please call 915-534-QUIT.
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