Breathe deeply: The air is clean

Clean Indoor Air Healthy 10

Just a decade ago, prohibiting smoking indoors wasn’t even on the table in most of the Kansas City metropolitan area. There was simply too much opposition on the part of tobacco companies, municipalities and owners of hospitality businesses to even begin the conversation. It was thought of purely as an economic decision that would harm profits.

But eventually, people started seeing tobacco as a national heath issue. Studies came out showing the dangers of second-hand smoke. To reduce the number of people who smoke, the CDC recommended that states create policies to reduce smoking in public places and make non-smoking the social norm.

Resistance to smoking bans gradually began to soften. In 2004, only three states had smoke-free laws, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. By 2013, almost half of the states did, and 48 percent of Americans are covered by state or local laws.

Locally, grassroots organizing was the predominant way that smoke-free laws began to spread. It was the people who understood the health issues – doctors, nurses and coalitions of parents whose children have asthma or cystic fibrosis – that were on the front lines of the fight. These groups moved the conversation from economics to health.

Between 2002 and 2009, 39 Kansas communities adopted clean indoor air policies. In 2004, Lawrence, Kan. was one of the first communities to pass a comprehensive smoke-free workplace ordinance.

Lee’s Summit was the first community on the Missouri side to pass a smoke-free ordinance in 2006. In 2007, ordinances were passed in Columbia, Independence and Kirksville. Since that time, a total of 35 local communities in the state have passed ordinances limiting smoking in workplaces, restaurants and/or bars; 25 of the areas have comprehensive ordinances protecting workers from secondhand smoke.

Clean indoor air blog posts:

Data from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services from 2013 showed that 75 percent of Missourians support local smoke-free laws compared to only 50 percent 15 years ago. This steady increase in public support for smoke-free ordinances is a promising sign of changing social norms regarding smoking.

In Kansas, the 2010 Indoor Clean Air Act was passed to prohibit smoking indoor in public places and workplaces. The Indoor Clean Air Act has changed attitudes in the state. In 2011, advocates blocked a repeal of the act. A 2013 poll from Clean Air Kansas found that three of every four Kansas voters still favor the act.

Currently, about 95 percent of Kansas City is covered by smoke-free ordinances: only seven of its 34 communities do not have a smoke-free ordinance of any kind. Today, 10 Kansas communities have local regulations more stringent than the state law. In Missouri, six communities have approved local comprehensive protections from secondhand smoke.

Overall, we have a great deal to be proud of. The majority of our metro has changed its culture and gone smoke-free. Businesses are thriving and the air quality has improved dramatically.

Clean indoor air is exactly what our region needed. With community-wide bans in Missouri and a statewide ban on indoor smoking in Kansas, we can all breathe a little easier knowing our air is clean, and our lungs are protected.

This blog post is part of A Healthy 10.

A Healthy 10, Tobacco

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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at


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