We have come long way in changing smoking behavior in the past 60 years. I recall that, as a child 60 years ago, I was well aware a smoke free space was extremely rare. In my experience more than 80% of adult, white men smoked tobacco (official estimates indicate 60%), while many chewed tobacco and/or dipped snuff. Far fewer women did so; less than 15% smoked tobacco (I only knew one) and a few chewed tobacco and/or dipped snuff. Only in a church, a school or a few other rare locations could a non-smoker find relief from a smoky environment. Smokers lit up and chewers spit in hospitals, AMA conventional halls, APHA convention halls, and medical school clinics, as well as taverns, saloons, restaurants, and most homes. There were ash trays and spittoons virtually everywhere indoors.
Today, there are lots of smoke free environments, including hospitals, AMA convention halls,APHA convention halls, medical school clinics, many restaurants, most homes and even some taverns and saloons. Fewer than 25% of adult, white males smoke. While the percentage of adult white women who smoke is greater today, the overall rate is markedly down. Most ashtrays are gone and spittons appear only among antique collections. For many of us, we see this progress and view the glass as at least half full. For others, this is not the case.
Yesterday, January 13, 2009, I saw a HealthDay News headline that reads: U.S. Flunks on Tobacco Control Report Card. This report states: According to the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2008, the federal government as well as most states failed to enact critical policy measures, such as higher taxes on cigarettes and to adequately regulate tobacco products. Upon reading the article, it seems to me that standards for passing the grade are quite high. I like smoke free environments and want to see more done to cause them to happen, but it seems we are moving the markers of success pretty fast.