It’s been 10 years since the state of Delaware passed the Clean Indoor Air Act, and some of its initial sponsors were on hand today to celebrate the anniversary.
Sen. David McBride, Sen. Patricia Blevins and Rep. Deborah Hudson, along with former Governor Ruth Ann Minner, were among many that initiated the law against smoking in public places and workspaces, at the time, making Delaware the second state in the U.S. to pass such a law.
“Now looking back 10 years has passed, it’s an accepted fact in Delaware and we know we’ve saved lives and improved the health of Delaware so it’s very gratifying to think of all the work that was done to pass the legislation by so many different individuals,” said McBride.
The controversial bill sparked debate from both parties as well as bar and restaurant owners who argued that the restrictions would put them out of business. It was passed during the administration of former Governor Ruth Ann Minner and is considered a highlight of her time as Delaware chief executive.
“At the time, there was a lot of opposition and I had people over the years come to me personally and tell me what a great thing that has happened, that they changed their mind about it,” said McBride.
Since its passage, many other municipalities, hospitals and colleges have also gone smoke free. In January, Governor Jack Markell’s announced that all state agencies would be going smoke free in his state of the state address.
Lt. Governor Matt Denn, Rep. John Carney and Rita Landgraf, secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services, marked the occasion by noting the health benefits the law has brought to the state.
Landgraf explained that smoking levels among Delaware’s youth decreased to all time lows since the law was passed in 2002.
“Among Delaware high school students who regularly smoke at least 20 days per month, the smoking rate decreased by 57 percent between 1999 and 2011,” explained Landgraf. “Enforcement of the youth tobacco laws has been strong with compliance rates over 90 percent.”
Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the state Division of Public Health added that a recent national study found that in the 33 states and territories with smoke free laws, there has been a significant reduction in hospitalization for heart attacks and strokes.
While many accomplishments have been made, the state leaders said there’s still work to do when it comes to tobacco usage.
“Very importantly, we want to continue our efforts to educate youth about the harms of tobacco both smoking tobacco as well as smokeless tobacco,” said Dr. Rattay. “Our preference would be that no youth or young adult ever picks up a cigarette or ever tries tobacco so we still have room for improvement.”
The state currently offers the Delaware Quit Line which has supported more than 40,000 residence in their efforts to stop using tobacco. Additionally, many health insurance plans offer smoking succession resources as part of health care coverage.