It may seem crazy now, but it was not all that long ago that you could be overwhelmed by second-hand smoke when entering a restaurant or bar.
It was just 10 years ago that the Oregon Legislature expanded the Indoor Clean Air Act (ICAA), Oregon’s Smokefree Workplace Law, to protect more Oregonians from the harms of secondhand smoke where we live, work, learn and play. In 2007, changes were made to eliminate prior exemptions for bars and taverns, bar areas of restaurants, bingo halls and bowling centers. It also prohibited smoking within 10 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes for workplaces and public places. Although beneficial to all, these changes have benefited workers in these facilities the most; those who were exposed to smoke all day while simply doing their jobs.
Nearly 9 out of 10 Oregonians support the ICAA. Nevertheless, year after year, advocates must continue to protect the ICAA, even ten years after its expansion. Employees have the right to breathe clean air. Yet in 2015, an estimated 545,000 people reported that they still breathe secondhand smoke while at work. In the 2017 legislative session alone, we saw more than 10 bills that proposed rolling back the ICAA in some way or another, despite economic analyses stating that smokefree policies do not harm businesses, including bars and restaurants.
So, this December while you are out at holiday parties, take a deep breath and enjoy that smokefree air, taking a moment to celebrate how far we have come and how worthwhile it is, to continue that fight.