Tobacco and EH Professionals

Date posted: 
Monday, September 26, 2016 - 10:15
Blog poster: 
Ellen Cornelius
Email of Blog Poster: 
What do Environmental Health professionals actually do to control people's exposure to tobacco? Read about my interview with Ashley Frederick, Tobacco Program Manager at the Department of Environmental Health of the City and County of Denver:

From an environmental health perspective, how does tobacco harm in more ways than one? (I.e. second and third hand smoke?)

Tobacco smoke does not only harm the consumer, second hand smoke has some very real health impacts on those exposed. According to the CDC, non-users who inhale second hand tobacco smoke may suffer from coronary heart disease, lung cancer and stroke. Children and infants are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of second hand smoke as they can see an increase in ear infections, asthma attacks, and respiratory infections.  

What kinds of activities does the Denver Department of Environmental Health do to reduce exposure of second hand smoke in the community?

The Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act (CCIAA) bans the consumption of tobacco smoke in any indoor location with a few exceptions. The enforcement of this Act is left up to local law enforcement. The Denver Department of Environmental Health receives complaints about violations of the CCIAA at which point we draft a letter to the facility to inform them of the law and how to best comply. When we send the letter to the facility we copy their local city council representative, their local law enforcement district commander, and our partners at Denver Public Health who visit each facility to provide education on the law and how the facility can most effectively comply.

What new policies are being updated in the City of Denver to ensure that tobacco legislation is current with developing technology, trends, and state legislation?

Denver has recently updated two policies. An internal policy, called an Executive Order (XO), was updated to include the use of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) inside any municipal building, and also extended the distance from all entryways to 25 feet. This means that at any municipal building a tobacco user must go outside to use any device (including e-cigarettes) and must consume 25 feet or further away from any entrance to the building. Additionally, we expanded the definition of tobacco products in our Denver Revised Municipal code so that all tobacco and nicotine products are illegal to sell to minors. They were always illegal to sell to minors, but expanding the definition in our local code allows for our department to expand local enforcement.

How does the Denver Department of Environmental Health educate the public on the risks of tobacco exposure?

Denver Department of Environmental Health is launching an education campaign about the harms of tobacco smoke, and the laws that govern the industry. We will provide education to all tobacco retailers in Denver on the harms of use and how they can help prevent initiation among Denver youth. We also partner closely with Denver Public Health, a department of the Denver Health and Hospital Authority, to provide public education. Denver Public Health has proven to be a great partner in educating the public on the risks of tobacco use, especially among youth.

In light of World Environmental Health Day on September 26th, 2016, what does environmental health mean to you and why is it important?

Environmental Health means that our built environment has a large impact on our public’s health; thus we have a responsibility to care for our environment so that we can all live a healthy life regardless of where we build our home. I think everyone deserves to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and enjoy beautiful green spaces so that they can live their best life without worrying about their basic needs.

Learn more about the health effects of second and third hand smoke and what other environmental health professionals do to keep their communities safe from the harms of tobacco

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect the policy, endorsement, or action of NEHA or the organization where the author is employed. NEHA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.  

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