Over the holidays I took a vacation in a Caribbean Island and experienced what America was like 20 years ago in bars and restaurants. Literally everyone at every table inside and outside was smoking cigarettes or cigars. I felt like I was living out a scene from Mad Men. And I hated it. Not only that but the exhaust from the cars combined with the ubiquitous cigarette smoke reminded me how lucky we are in the United States to be free of that smoke-filled environment. And how much healthier we are as a result.
Indeed, the latest news is that curbs on smoking in American companies and businesses continues to grow. Effective New Year’s Day this year, employees of 3M and in Delaware State Government will no longer be able to duck outside for a cigarette. North Dakota banned smoking in most public places. Curbs are under discussion in Bangor, Maine and San Francisco. The best news of all is that efforts to ban and otherwise discourage smoking appear to be working: We’re at 19 percent of Americans smoking now, compared to 42 percent in 1965, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates that smoking and secondhand smoke cause 20 percent of the deaths in the United States each year.
So as I sat there, miserably taking in secondhand smoke during my Caribbean vacation, and cursing the tobacco companies for importing the cigarettes that Americans aren’t smoking to lesser-developed countries, I realized how grateful I am to live in a country where smoking is rapidly going out of style. And we are all far healthier for it.