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Friday, June 3, 2011

Michigan Smoking Ban Results In Healthier Bar Employees

Darlene Krause, manager of Muskegon's Tipsy Toad Tavern, made it through the whole winter without getting sick.

And not only her. "You know, I've noticed a lot of the people," Krause said. "Before, we had a lot of the people come in with colds or the flu." This year, not so many.

She said she believes one big reason for the change is Michigan's year-old ban on smoking cigarettes in bars and restaurants. The smoke-free law took effect May 1, 2010.

The ban was intended to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, especially for bar and restaurant employees forced to work around it as a condition of their jobs. Public-health officials hoped that would lead to improvements in health.

It seems to be working.

The Michigan Department of Community Health recently reported the results of a health study of 40 people working at bars in 12 Michigan counties. Six of the participants were from Muskegon County, according to a local official.

Other study participants were from Ottawa, Benzie, Berrien, Genesee, Ingham, Leelanau, Marquette, Menominee, Emmet, St. Clair and Wayne counties.

The study found a significant drop in the levels of two chemical compounds that serve as markers of secondhand smoke cigarettes exposure.

In addition, the bar employees reported significant improvements in their general health status, as well as a marked decrease in six respiratory symptoms: allergy symptoms, wheezing, shortness of breath, phlegm, daytime cough and morning cough.

The participants' urine was tested four to six weeks before the smoking cigarettes ban took effect, and again six to 10 weeks after it took effect. Questionnaires were completed at the same intervals.

The urine tests showed a significant decrease in the average levels of cotinine (nicotine after it's been metabolized in the body) and a compound called NNAL.

"That's good news, because I heard from a number of the employees that worked in the smoking cigarettes bars that they were looking forward to the ban," said Ed Parsekian of Shelby, a smoking cigarettes-cessation educator. Parsekian did local enforcement of the ban until he retired in January from Public Health-Muskegon County, the county's health department.

"Some were even smokers, because it was like a double hit," Parsekian said. "It was like they were smoking cigarettes a second pack."

Ken Krause, director of Public Health-Muskegon County, predicts long-term health benefits for county residents, even beyond the immediate respiratory symptoms.

"I would expect, like in a lot of places, we'll see a positive impact in terms of heart attack and heart-related problems," said Krause, no relation to Darlene Krause.

As the county's top health official, he's an enthusiastic supporter of the law. "The number one thing is, the majority of people don't smoke. The closest estimate is around 77 to 78 percent (nonsmokers) in Muskegon County," Krause said.

"Those of us in Muskegon County who don't smoke, we have the opportunity to go into any place of public accommodation and not be exposed to secondhand smoke," Krause said.

"Employees who don't want to be exposed to smoke cigarettes aren't required to as part of their job."

Other health officials have also seen an improvement.

"I think it's been real positive overall," said Linda Juarez, chief executive officer of Hackley Community Care Center and co-chair of Muskegon Rotary's Health and Wellness Committee. "Folks who are nonsmokers are real pleased with it. You don't have smoke cigarettes around your food and all around you."

Cyndi Powers teaches cigarettes prevention to K-12 students for the Muskegon Community Health Project, including education about the effects of secondhand smoke. She said kids have been telling her about another change over the last year.

"They're saying a lot of people are going out more often, and going to places they wouldn't have gone to before, because of the no smoking cigarettes. They're going out a lot more as a family," Powers said. "We're hearing a lot of positiveness."

While some locally-owned neighborhood bars have reported steep revenue declines since the ban took effect, other establishments � especially those offering food or entertainment � actually report a business boost.

"I think all of us are very, very happy this happened," said Darlene Krause, the Tipsy Toad manager. "Our business has skyrocketed. A lot of people wouldn't come in because we're so small," and heavy smoke cigarettes would linger in the limited air space.

And then there's this final side benefit, like a tasty dessert after a good meal: "We don't have to go home and shower at the end of the day to get the stink off."

Notice of the day: i was reading this Glamour.
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