Health Care Group Voices Support For Smoking Ban

A group of Yankton’s health care professionals gathered Tuesday to voice their support of a law that, if passed, would ban smoking from all restaurants, bars and casinos in South Dakota.

The gathering took place at the Avera Sacred Heart Hospital Pavilion was part of a kick-off for the Yes on 12 campaign. Referred Law 12 will be on the ballot in the upcoming election.

“I’m going to continue in those efforts and support the passage of a statewide smoking law to a victory in our ballot box on Nov. 2,” said State Sen. Jean Hunhoff of Yankton.

The Yes on 12 campaign has been established to rally supporters of the law in getting out the non-smoking message, and Hunhoff is requesting the assistance of residents across the state.

“We are going to ask you to speak proactively, help us to distribute information, put out yard signs and most of all we need to encourage our voters to get out there and vote yes on 12,” she said.

Dr. Michael Pietelia, pulmonologist with the Yankton Medical Clinic, also spoke in favor of the ban, saying, “No tobacco smoke exposure, regardless of level, is safe. Furthermore, anything we can do as a society to limit smoking and to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke will result in significant tangible health care benefits.”

By voting for Referred Law 12, Pietelia said state residents have the chance to “make their voices heard.”

If passed, the law will benefit employees of businesses where smoking is currently allowed, said Pam Rezac, Avera Sacred Heart Hospital president and CEO.

“There is no good reason for the people of South Dakota to face increased risk of lung cancer, heart disease or respiratory illness simply because of where they work,” she said. “No one should have to choose between their workplace and their health.”

Some businesses have already enacted no-smoking policies, such as the Yankton Pizza Hut, which has been smoke-free for the past six years.

General manager Sarah Blackwell said that although she supported the ban, she had concerns about whether is would negatively affect business.

“We were kind of skeptical for the first couple of weeks,” she said. “But then we had people coming in, saying, ‘You know, we always ordered delivery from you guys. We never came in. Now that you’re smoke-free, we’re bringing our family into your establishment to eat instead of eating at home.’”

The restaurant’s business has increased each year since the ban was enacted, Blackwell said.

According to Dr. Mary Lee Villanueva, oncologist with the Yankton Medical Clinic, the United States sees approximately 10,000 new cases of lung cancer annually.

“Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S., causing about 438,000 — about one out of every five — each year,” she said.

Of these deaths, approximately 30,000 come as the result of exposure to second-hand smoke, Villanueva said.

“It’s agonizing to watch these people suffer and die from cancer that in many cases would have been preventable had these people not taken up smoking,” said Dr. Michael Peterson, radiation oncologist with Avera Sacred Heart Cancer Center.

Pietelia said if the state enacts the smoking ban, evidence suggests a lower risk of cancer, heart attacks and lung disease for all of its citizens.

“Data suggests that the rate of new smokers are also decreased in areas where bans are in place, so they not only protect individuals who don’t wish exposure to second-hand smoke, but they promote a decrease in the incidence of the number of new smokers,” he added.


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