"The Heart of the Matter"

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Week: 504.5 Guest: Alan Blum, M.D. Topic: The Workplace Smoking Ban Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: This is a conversation with Dr. Alan Blum from the organization DOC or Doctors Ought To Care on the Workplace Smoking Ban.

NEMA: Dr. Blum, one thing I've learned through history from talking with you about the subject of tobacco and tobacco advertising is one way to get you to bite my head off is to sort of try to bargain with you, like talk about low-tar cigarettes or talk about the chemical additives in cigarettes. Another one that you may have the same response and I'm curious to hear, how do you feel about states that are now passing laws that say there is no smoking allowed in workplaces? Is that a positive step or do you think it's superfluous?

BLUM: The best single measure that we've done and why the United States leads the world on dealing with the tobacco issue overall is the passage of clean indoor air legislation that will limit smoking in public places, particularly areas of transportation like the airplanes or in the workplaces and I think that the basic rule of thumb is just as in church or synagogue, when you can't smoke, you don't smoke. And what I've found is that people who are the most vocal opponents of such legislation, let's say people in the union who say " No one is going to tell me if I can't smoke at work," they're actually in my experience the ones who stop smoking quickest because they've made their public stance, everyone knows the way they feel and guess who stops smoking? Because I think deep down they've been looking for a good opportunity but they would lose face if they ever supported restrictions because it seems to be anti-American to support restrictions. The best single effort to reduce smoking in my opinion are clean indoor air laws such as laws that limit or prohibit smoking in the workplace.

NEMA: Are you seeing these laws being enforced because I am not and I am not exactly sure when that's going to start to be done or is this something that's sort of happening in a wishy-washy way? What states are actually enforcing these laws?

BLUM: Having spent my whole career in the tobacco issue, focusing mostly on the promotion of cigarettes and how it works and starting originally years ago feeling that we should prohibit cigarette advertising and now feeling that we mainly need competition in counteracting, it's sort of hard for me to acknowledge that the real advance by far has been the clean indoor air legislation because that's the thing that says - when there is no smoking, people simply don't smoke. The enforcement of it will follow because once people taste what fresh air environments really are, their lives are very rudely interrupted when they sense that there's a lot of foul smoke in the air. I don't get involved as much into whether one cigarette is going to kill somebody or breathing in the passive smoke of five people who smoke at the office is going to result in somebody's lung cancer. That I think is a very difficult question to answer but I think as a matter of public policy and as a matter of presenting a positive image for a company, this issue of prohibiting in the workplace has done more than anything I think to improve health and in the long run is going to pay off in lower health care costs.

NEMA: Do you foresee the day in the near future when every state in this country has a workplace smoking ban?

BLUM: The workplace smoking bans are going to happen without any question whatsoever. The problem is increasing demand among adolescents for cigarettes through the very clever and very visual, very wonderful promotions that the tobacco companies have created, wonderful in the sense that they're are so far ahead of any of the imagery you've ever seen in any other product.

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Last modified: December 02, 2021