Utah Valley employees may not earn as much as their counterparts in Salt Lake City or other areas, but they probably breathe easier.
During the past year, the Utah County-City Health Department has awarded nearly 60 certificates to local businesses for complying with the Utah Indoor Clean Air Act.The act, on the books since 1976, prohibits smoking in public places and at meetings except in designated areas. The law also requires proprietors of public places to arrange seating and ventilation in order to provide smoke-free areas.
Even private businesses are subject to the act, says Dr. Joseph Miner, local Health Department director. The public should be able to visit private businesses without having to breathe cigarette smoke, he said, and workers can demand that their employers establish designated smoking areas.
"Since it's a public health threat, there's no reason why people should have to put up with it," Miner said.
While some businesses have decided to make their premises completely smoke-free, other establishments such as bars and taverns are allowed by law to have nothing but smoking areas, if they are posted as such.
"State law requires that people not have to work in a place that's contaminated with cigarette smoke, or if it's a place the public is allowed to visit, that the public not be contaminated with cigarette smoke," Miner said.
Because enforcing the Clean Air Act can be difficult, Miner commends local businesses for voluntarily doing what they can to provide a smoke-free environment for their employees.
"I've signed many (compliance) certificates over the past eight months," he said. Miner encourages businesses to be proud of their compliance with the law and to post compliance certificates.
To qualify for a certificate, businesses must have a no-smoking policy, display decals prohibiting smoking except in designated areas and prohibit smoking in hallways, rest rooms, entry and exits areas, registration areas, corridors, stairways, elevators and similar areas frequented by the public.
The Indoor Clean Air Act, if enforced, protects non-smokers from dangers of passive smoking. A 1986 report prepared by the U.S. surgeon general concluded that "passive smoking can cause disease, including lung cancer, in healthy non-smokers and that children whose parents smoke have a higher incidence of respiratory infections and other illnesses than do children of non-smoking parents."
In Utah County, smokers account for only 6 percent of the adult population, compared with 15 percent in Salt Lake and between 25 percent and 30 percent nationwide. Smoking may affect fewer people in Utah County, but it's still an important public health concern, Miner said.
"We haven't had a lot (of businesses) giving us a hard time on it," said Pat Tucker, coordinator of the county's tobacco-free program, regarding compliance.
For further information about the act, call the Health Department at 370-8100.