TriMet policy still clears the air
My View • No-smoking plan needs enforcement help
Five years ago, TriMet approved a groundbreaking policy that prohibited smoking at all bus shelters and most MAX stations. TriMet participated in this change since many of its riders are particularly vulnerable to secondhand smoke, including babies, children, pregnant women, seniors and those with health issues. It also created the benefit of a healthier work environment for TriMet operators and employees.
Several tobacco-prevention successes have followed since that time. A stronger smoke-free Workplace Law for Oregon went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009, protecting employees and customers from secondhand smoke in bars and restaurants. Two-thirds of community colleges in the Portland area have passed tobacco-free policies for their campuses. All six of the major Portland area health systems have expanded their smoke-free policies, with five of the six implementing campus-wide smoke-free or tobacco-free policies.
Smoke-free policies have taken off in multi-unit housing both locally and statewide, protecting more Oregonians from secondhand smoke in their homes.
At the same time, much remains to be done. Tobacco is still the leading cause of preventable death. The adult smoking rate stands at 17 percent in Oregon (19.6 percent in Multnomah County), although 80 percent of smokers report that they would like to quit.
The smoking rate in Oregon is even higher for those with fewer resources (up to 35 percent). We need to connect this population to resources such as the American Lung Association's Freedom From Smoking program (www.ffsonline.org) and the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line (1-800-QUIT-NOW). Smoking costs the Oregon economy $2.2 billion a year ($400 million in Multnomah County alone) in direct health care costs and lost productivity. In addition, 800 Oregonians die each year from secondhand smoke.
We congratulate TriMet on leading the way five years ago to protect the health of Oregonians. The American Lung Association in Oregon will continue to work at the state and local level to pass laws and implement policies that will lessen the burden of tobacco on our families and communities.
Renée Klein of Seattle is president and chief executive officer of the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific.