MARQUETTE - It's been almost a year since Michigan's smoke-free air law went into effect and recently released survey results show strong local and statewide support for the law.
Sarah Derwin, health educator with the Marquette County Health Department, said 44 Marquette County residents took part in the survey and 64 percent of them were in favor of the law and 88 percent thought that secondhand smoke was a threat to nonsmokers.
"Results from our community indicate strong support for the smoke-free law. Eighty-eight percent of participants indicated they went out to eat more often or just as often as they did prior to Michigan being smoke-free," Derwin said.
The law, which bans tobacco smoke in all restaurants, bars and businesses in the state, went into effect last May. The nine-question survey, conducted between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15, was distributed to clients receiving services at local health departments and other community agencies in 76 of Michigan's 83 counties. In total, 6,988 people were surveyed. The surveys were analyzed by the Michigan Department of Community Health Tobacco Section.
Derwin said the surveys were given to health department clients because the MDCH wanted a uniform pool of people so results of the survey wouldn't be biased.
"We didn't know which opinion they had one way or the other," Derwin said.
Of those surveyed in Marquette County, 25 percent were smokers, 25 percent were former smokers and 50 percent were nonsmokers.
Statewide, more than 73 percent of participants were in favor of the law - including 35 percent of current smokers - and 86 percent thought secondhand smoke was a serious threat to nonsmokers. More than 55 percent of those surveyed who were smokers tried to quit or quit smoking after the law went into effect. More than 600 participants reported quitting.
"The results of this survey indicate ongoing public support for the law and are similar to results from the survey conducted prior to the law taking effect. The vast majority of survey participants reported dining out more often or the same amount as they did prior to the implementation of the law," said Teri Wison, a consultant with the MDCH Tobacco Section.
Derwin said health department officials can confirm secondhand smoke can kill people if they have been exposed to it for a long time.
"For example, living with a spouse that smokes. Secondhand smoke can be very harmful for anyone suffering from any kind of breathing related illness," she said.
It can be particularly harmful to babies and children, whose lungs are still developing, she said. Children can develop asthma or other breathing-related difficulties if exposed to constant secondhand smoke. She said thirdhand smoke - the residue from smoke that stays on clothes, furniture and carpet - can be harmful for babies and can cause them to develop asthma.
"We do have doctors now sometimes that will tell people if they do smoke to take off that jacket or change their clothing if they're going to hold the baby or the baby is going to be anywhere near that clothing," she said.
Derwin helped conduct a state-wide survey of businesses effected by the smoking ban. She went to 15 places of her choosing and interviewed the owners. She said she got a wide range of results, from very positive opinions to very negative opinions and neutral opinions.
"I tried to choose places that I had no idea what they were thinking. I did get results from the extreme good to the extreme bad, to right in the middle. Some people told me 'business has been down but I think it's because of the economy,'" Derwin said.
Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.