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All North Dakota Workplaces Could be Smoke-Free by Christmas

PHOTO: Cigarette butt. CREDIT: Courtesy of the American Cancer Society
PHOTO: Cigarette butt. CREDIT: Courtesy of the American Cancer Society
September 13, 2012

BISMARCK, N.D. - The fall election is now less than eight weeks away, and one of the big questions facing North Dakotans is whether to approve a ballot initiative banning smoking in workplaces statewide.

Approval of the measure would lead to better health, according to Janet Maxson, a nurse practitioner in Minot who volunteers with the American Heart Association.

"The mindset of the public is realizing that tobacco-free is the right, as opposed to people not having to breathe secondhand smoke. The evidence-based science now has shown us that all that passive smoke still is a major cause of coronary artery disease and also of death."

While lung cancer is the first disease many think of in relation to smoking, Maxson says, tobacco use is also the leading cause of heart disease.

"Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer in our country and looking all around the world, and tobacco has a huge impact on the risk factors for cardiovascular disease."

Some establishments in North Dakota already are smoke-free voluntarily, and workplace bans already are in effect in a number of cities - so Maxson says statewide is the next logical step.

"I've been kind of polling my patients that have been coming in, and every single one of them that have been in feels that it is time for our state to take this initiative and have it, like so many states have already done - to have a tobacco-free workplace."

Twenty-three states have 100 percent smoke-free workplace laws, including Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota.

The new North Dakota smoke-free workplace law would take effect 30 days after the election if approved. Those against the measure say government shouldn't be able to ban a legal activity inside a private business.

More information is online at facebook.com/SmokeFreeND.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND