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DHS news release

December 21, 2004


Contact: Pam Wilson (503) 685-7564


Technical contact: Mel Kohn, M.D. (503) 731-4023


More than 500 Oregon bars and restaurant-bar combos are smokefree

New people's choice award for favorite smokefree establishment launched this New Year's to highlight secondhand smoke dangers

More than 500 bars and restaurant-bar combinations in six Oregon counties are now smokefree, which state public health officials welcomed today as an encouraging trend toward protecting Oregonians from the documented hazards of secondhand smoke.


The smokefree restaurant-bar combinations and bars are in the Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Benton, Lane and Jackson counties, the only areas for which numbers are known.


"Secondhand smoke causes an estimated 800 deaths a year in Oregon," said Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist in the Oregon Department of Human Services. "As people prepare to celebrate New Year's, it is important to remember they have choices." DHS manages the state Tobacco Prevention and Education Program, financed by voter-approved tobacco taxes.


Medical authorities say that secondhand smoke contains a complex mixture of more than 200 toxins, including lead, the deadly poison arsenic and cancer-causing formaldehyde.


Experts have found that just 30 minutes of secondhand smoke exposure can impair blood flow to and from the heart in non-smokers. Longer-term exposure to non-smokers increases the risk of heart disease by up to 60 percent and lung cancer between 20 and 30 percent.


A recent study, conducted by an independent air quality expert in Maryland, showed that smoky bars have up to 50 times more cancer-causing particles in the air than highways clogged with diesel trucks at rush hour. Clean air experts say that patrons at smoky bars are exposed to more particulate pollution at far greater levels than the federal government allows outdoors.


To bring attention to the dangers of secondhand smoke, public health officials and the American Lung Association of Oregon (ALAO) are partnering this New Year's to launch a new people's choice award for smokefree restaurant-bar combination establishments, bars and taverns in the Portland metropolitan, Medford and Bend areas.

Votes for the best smokefree bar can be cast by logging onto the ALAO Web site or sending an email to choosesmokefree@yahoo.com. Those who send in their pick will be entered into a drawing to win a smokefree entertainment package. Winners will be announced Valentine's Day. Participants must be 21 or older to win.


"Our goal is to draw attention to dangers posed by secondhand smoke," said Kohn. "We want to provide information to assist people with making healthy choices."