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DHS news release

May 22, 2006


Contacts: Bonnie Widerburg, DHS (971) 673-1282

Technical contacts: Mel Kohn, M.D., DHS (971) 673-0982

New television ads warn of secondhand smoke health hazards

Two new television ads intended to heighten public awareness about the health hazards of secondhand smoke in the workplace, especially bars, are launching today across the state.

Public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) said the 60-second ads use real-life stories to demonstrate that repeated exposure to secondhand smoke can cause illness and death.


"Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard," said Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist in DHS. "It contains 43 cancer-causing chemicals and can be directly linked to lung cancer and heart disease.

"More than 35,000 Oregonians work in places not covered by Oregon's Indoor Clean Air Act," Kohn said. "These workers, mostly employed in bars, continue to be exposed to dangerous levels of secondhand smoke.”

To save the expense of creating advertisements, DHS purchased the rights to air these ads, which were produced elsewhere, from a resource bank at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DHS then focus-tested the ads in Oregon to make sure the messages would work for Oregonians.

The ads, which will run statewide on major television stations through this summer and fall, tell about two non-smokers who were victims of deadly illness due to secondhand smoke exposure at work.

One ad features a middle-aged woman named Heather Crowe who supported herself and her daughter as a waitress for 40 years. Crowe tells viewers that the air where she worked was blue from cigarette smoke. Although she never smoked a day in her life, Crowe is now dying of lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.

The other ad is narrated by Trish Dulka, the daughter of a 54-year-old man who died of lung cancer after working in a smoke-filled environment for 10 years. Sitting at a work desk, Dulka talks about how much secondhand smoke he inhaled over the years, which is illustrated by an equivalent number of cigarettes piling up around her.

Kohn said studies show that non-smokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke are 20 percent to 30 percent more likely to develop lung cancer. Secondhand smoke can also increase the risk of heart disease among non-smokers by as much as 60 percent. In addition, workers who are exposed to secondhand smoke can also develop chronic respiratory illness, Kohn said.

The ads are an integral part of the state's tobacco prevention and education program, a comprehensive effort to reduce Oregonian's use of tobacco and exposure to secondhand smoke. It is funded by a tobacco tax increase approved by voters in 1996, which allocated a portion of new revenues for tobacco use reduction. Since the program began, Oregon has experienced a 42 percent decline in per capita consumption of cigarettes.