Smoke-free law cuts hospital visits


First Posted: 11/28/2011

A remarkable statistic showed up recently.

For 2010, North Carolina had 21 percent fewer emergency room visits for heart attacks. The difference between 2008, 2009 and 2010? The implementation of the NC Smoke-free Restaurants and Bars law on Jan. 2, 2010. This statistic has been borne out by other studies in states that enacted similar restrictions.

This single act reduced workplace exposures in half and has improved air quality in restaurants and bars by 89 percent. The law is viewed favorably by 74 percent of the public and has recently been endorsed by the Restaurant Association. The political will that allowed this to occur in the 2009 legislature is applauded although several members of our local delegation are no longer in office. One only needs to go to the state south of us and sit neck-deep in smoke to recall what life was like. Nothing wrong with the r est of the workplaces emulating this. You will get a healthier workforce. Incidentally, we have had only one formal violation reported in Robeson and that actually was not in a restaurant or bar so it was not valid.

On Thursday, which is Dec. 1, the 22nd World AIDS Day will be recognized. The theme this year is Getting to Zero zero new HIV Infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths. The zero-deaths theme is a push toward greater access to treatment for all. Part of the presidential debates has touched on whether we should be committing money to Africa for AIDS treatment. Political re asons aside, 70 percent of the new HIV infections in 2010 and nearly half of the AIDS-related deaths were in sub-Saharan Africa. Forty-seven percent of people living in low- or middle-income countries are now receiving treatment, thus a reduction in deaths.

Last year, 1.8 million people worldwide died from the disease, which is down from a high of 2.2 million in the mid-2000s. There were 2.7 million new HIV infections last year, which is 15 percent fewer than the infections peak in 1997. So the decline in acquiring the disease is offset by the number of infected people being treated and surviving, thus the total population continues to climb. The tally now stands at 33.3 million people living with HIV, including 2.5 million who are children.

Locally, we are having more and more issues with infected people adhering to their control measures being healthy and living longer can create an opportunity for someone else to get infected if measures are not strictly followed. We have seen a rise of acquisition by men having sex with men, but many of them also have sex with women. As we move forward, if you are not adequately protecting yourself, your risks will be increasing annually. Testing will alert you to the issue and treatment can be sought early on, but would not it have been better to protect yourself at the beginning? Nevertheless, this is a good opportunity to get tested (it is done in traditional clinics as well as outreach sites in the county) and ascertain your status. Early identification ensures a more healthy and productive life.

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