For Immediate Release
June 22, 2007

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

Kansas Supreme Court Ruling Adds Momentum to Smoke-Free Movement

The Kansas Supreme Court today upheld the rights of cities and counties to pass smoke-free ordinances and laws that are more restrictive than current state law. The decision, in which the City of Lawrence prevailed, creates additional momentum towards more communities in Kansas becoming smoke-free.

Smoke-free ordinances have been approved in 18 Kansas communities. Nationwide, more than half of the U.S. population is already protected by smoke-free laws, with at least 21 states approving some type of smoke-free law.

Secondhand smoke is a critical public health issue. A 2006 report from the U. S. Surgeon General declared that there is no safe level of secondhand smoke, and the only way to protect nonsmokers from it is to require smoke-free workplaces and public places. According to the Kansas Adult Tobacco Survey, 94 percent of Kansans believe that secondhand smoke is harmful.

“We are very pleased with this ruling. It confirms our belief that this is fundamentally a public health issue, not an individual rights question,” said Roderick L. Bremby, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “ With today’s decision, communities across the state have been given a new opportunity to create laws to protect Kansans from the health effects caused by secondhand smoke. We hope this ruling will encourage other cities and counties that are considering tobacco-free ordinances to proceed with the quest to improve the health of their community.”

Statistics have shown that secondhand smoke exposure can cause heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma attacks in infants and children. Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent and lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.