Only On 6: Second Hand Smoke Dangers

Only on 6: Second Hand Smoke Dangers

In this Only On 6 report, Newschannel 6 Christina Myers uncovered the Wichita Falls' smoking ordinance is no longer keeping residents safe.

"The science has changed, and our test to check to see if the air is mixing, is real basic and it's real simple," said Environmental Health Administrator at the Wichita Falls Wichita County Health District Susan Morris.

The test, performed by a health official, is simply a few puffs of powder to simulate smoke released in the doorway separating the smoking and non-smoking sections.

The test is in accordance with the ordinance passed by the City Council in 1994. "There probably are more advanced ways to test, but for our ordinance and the purpose of our ordinance, this meets the standard of the way our ordinance was written," said Morris.

However, "In 2006, the Surgeon General came out and said there is no safe exposure level to secondhand smoke," said William Carter with Transforming Texas.

The smoking ordinance also requires bars and restaurants have a separate ventilation system for the smoking and non-smoking sections. "But it doesn't really define what a ventilation system is," said Morris. "It could be a fan in a window."

Morris said people, including waiters and waitresses, walking between the two sections can also carry the smell of smoke, and second hand dangers, on their clothes. 'Other customers can smell that tobacco and so they complain," said Morris.

Despite customer complaints, Wichita Falls establishments are able to pass the test for the outdated ordinance. A formal request to the city's Legal Department showed no citations have been given to any establishment or individual in the past five years.

Carter said second hand smoke exposure has the same dangerous health effects as if you yourself were smoking. "Lung cancer is a big problem, heart disease is a big problem."

"In fact, it is such a big concern that one out of every ten people who die from tobacco-related causes, never touched a cigarette, they're non-smokers," said Carter. That means about 50,000 die each year from second hand smoke, when they have never smoked in their lives.

Christina Myers