A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that a majority of the biggest U.S. cities are now smoke-free.
Laws that prohibit smoking in bars, restaurants and workplaces now exist in 30 of the 50 largest U.S. cities, up from one such ban in 2000, the CDC found.
The trend echoes the overall decline of American smokers. A Gallup poll out earlier this fall found the percentage of U.S. heavy smokers has dropped significantly since the late 1970s, and has reached an all-time low this year.
In 2000, less than 3 percent of Americans were protected by state or local laws, the CDC said. Now half of all Americans are, researchers said.
Studies have found that smoke-free laws reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, reduce smoking and improve health, including reducing heart attacks.
“Smoke-free laws save lives and don’t hurt business,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a statement. “If we can protect workers and the public in the remaining 20 largest cities, 16 million people would be better protected from cancer and heart disease caused by secondhand smoke.”
Ten of the 20 cities without such laws are located in the South. Additionally, 10 of the 20 are in states that prohibit local smoking restrictions from being stronger than or different from state law.
“Hundreds of cities and counties have passed their own smoke-free laws, including many communities in the south,” said Tim McAfee, director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. “If we continue to progress as we have since 2000, all Americans could be protected from secondhand smoke exposure in workplaces and public places by 2020.”