Statement Of Dr. Chris Squier
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
Iowa City, Iowa
April 15, 2003
University of Iowa
My name is Christopher Squier. I am a professor of oral pathology. I am a member of the State Commission on Tobacco Use and Control, and I am a founding member of CAFÉ, which is the Citizens for Clean Air in Iowa City. I wanted to talk to you today about second-hand smoke or passive smoking, environmental tobacco smoke, and older Americans. There isn't any doubt about the problems, the disease burden due to environmental tobacco smoke. Indeed, it was the EPA that produced some of the fundamental data that showed that this is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Something like 53,000 people a year die, not because they smoked, but because they inhaled other peoples' smoke. 3,500 cases of deaths due to lung cancer. I think what is important in this context is the burden of disease that seems to belong disproportionately to young and old. Many of the diseases that arise from second-hand smoke affect infants. Those include Sudden Death Infant Syndrome and low-birth rates. Respiratory diseases, which affect the young, also affect the elderly. So this is a burden that is borne particularly by these distinct age segments, but we all bear it to some extent. We also now have the beginnings of solutions to this problem. We don't need more basic research. I think the data are quite conclusive. We even know what works. And what works are more smoke-free areas, better policies to have smoke-free public places, smoke-free workplaces, smoke-free restaurants and bars. We only have to look what that has done in states, such as California, where we have already seen a reduction in the diseases that I have mentioned. So, that is proof indeed for the causation as well as an indication of how we deal with the problem. I am advocating for a new approach to policies we need to implement at a more rapid rate: clean air policies. We are very proud of the ordinance that we have in the restaurants in Iowa City. We are also very well aware that we are almost the only city in Iowa with such an ordinance. Coralville, down the road, does not have it, and doesn't seem to want it. Cedar Rapids does not have it. Many communities in Iowa would like to have these ordinances. It is a struggle. We need to mobilize, we need to advocate, and I think we have a role here both for professionals and for older Americans to work together in trying to deal with this undoubted health risk. Thank you very much.