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Laying down the (non-smoking) law

August 31, 2009

Last month, Turkey became the latest of 18 countries to institute an indoor smoking ban.  In that country, at least one in three people smoke, and the country instituted the ban to try and cut down on smoking rates as well as reduce rates of second hand smoke.

Public health professor Jennifer Ibrahim says indoor smoking bans can be a good first step, but the task of implementing a country-wide ban can be daunting, and for many years, there was no in depth guide for how to do it.Handbook

But she and colleagues from nine other countries across the world are hoping to make the process a bit easier with the release of the International Agency for Research on Cancer Smoke-free Policy Handbook, which provides countries or regions with the necessary evidence to guide the design and implementation of smoke-free policies.
“There are no other guidelines that go this far,” said Ibrahim.  “In the US, there is the 2006 Surgeon General’s report, but that focused mainly on the health effects. This guide is an international look at the issue, and it goes beyond the health implications to look at the effectiveness of policies and practices already in place.”

As one of 15 co-authors, Ibrahim worked on a section about the evolutions of smoke-free policies and the role of the tobacco industry.  The handbook outlines smoking bans in different venues (bars, restaurants, etc.) and their effectiveness: overall, smoke-free policies have not contributed to a decrease in business, but have led to a decrease in second hand smoke exposure and cigarette consumption among workers.

“It is important to keep in mind that smoke-free policies are not prohibiting smokers from smoking. The policy is intended to protect the public from exposure to secondhand smoke. Period. Smokers may continue to smoke outside,” said Ibrahim.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization.

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