PRESTONSBURG — An air-quality study released Thursday comparing workplaces in the city, which has a smoking ban, to those in the county, which does not, shows wide differences between the two.
The study, performed July 12 to Aug. 18 by the University of Kentucky College of Nursing’s Clean Indoor Air Partnership, shows that indoor air in county establishments is on average nearly 13 times dirtier than the air in city businesses, thanks entirely to the city’s 3-year-old smoke ban.
The study examined six workplaces in Prestonsburg and eight workplaces elsewhere in the county. Of eight county businesses, all but one allowed smoking. City workplaces also all showed air quality that was cleaner than outdoor safety standards, while the county establishments were on average 3.3 times dirtier.
Anti-smoking advocates who presented the study said it stands as evidence of a need for a countywide ban on smoking in workplaces.
“We’re not trying to get people to quit smoking,” said Jean Rosenberg, one of the presenters. “Their personal habits are their personal habits. Our focus is on workplace safety.”
Citing a 2006 Surgeon General’s report that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, presenters said the poor air quality in county businesses is putting workers in those establishments at risk of “immediate blood vessel, lung tissue and DNA damage causing heart disease, lung disease and cancer.”
“The study demonstrates that Floyd County workers and patrons outside the city limits of Prestonsburg are exposed to harmful levels of [secondhand smoke],” the report reads. “Extending Prestonsburg’s smoke-free protections to the entire county (and the entire state) would significantely improve indoor air quality for all workers.”
Highlands Regional Medical Center pulmonologist Dr. Ayesha Sikder said respiratory diseases caused by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke result in years of suffering.
“As you know, as physicians, we are representatives of science,” Dr. Sikder said. “Our philosophy is to reduce suffering. Unfortunately, my patients have respiratory disease, and their suffering is tremendous.
“I tell my patients heart disease is wonderful; it kills you like this,” she added, snapping her fingers. “But if you have lung disease, you live forever, and you suffer.”
Rosenberg suggested that those in favor of a countywide smoke-free workplace ordinance contact their magistrates to express that opinion.
While the county boards of health can implement a smoke ban of its own, which apply to all county businesses, Floyd County Health Department Director Thursa Sloan said the Floyd County Board of Health feels it would be better if the issue were undertaken by the fiscal court, because there are still questions regarding the legality of board of health smoke bans.
The study was authored by Ellen J. Hahn, Kiyoung Lee, Heather E. Robertson and Hilarie Sidney.