Since late 2000, when San Jose, California stood alone, thirty of America's 50 largest cities now have laws prohibiting smoking in all indoor areas of private workplaces, restaurants, and bars, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the CDC's report, Comprehensive Smoke-Free Laws -- 50 Largest U.S. Cities, 2000 and 2012, sixteen of the nation's largest 50 cities are now covered by their own local comprehensive smoke-free laws, and 14 more are covered by similar statewide smoke-free laws.
Census 2010 showed that populations of the 50 largest U.S. cities ranged from 365,438 in Arlington, Texas, to 8,175,133 in New York, New York, with a median population of 600,690.
CDC's figures show that the number of Americans covered by local or state smoke-free laws has grown from less than 3% in 2000, to almost 50% today. CDC also says their research has shown that smoke-free laws have reduced exposure to secondhand smoke, reduced smoking, and improve public health, including reducing heart attacks.
"Hundreds of cities and counties have passed their own smoke-free laws, including many communities in the south," said Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC's Office on Smoking and Health in a press release. "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."
However, the 20 large cities not covered by local or state smoke-free laws, including Los Angeles and Atlanta, represent approximately 16 million residents, or 5% of the U.S. population
Surprisingly, six of the 20 large cities lacking smoke-free laws are in California. While California adopted statewide smoking restrictions as early as 1994, those laws, created at an early point in the evolution of smoke-free policies, fall short of current U.S. standards for comprehensive smoke-free laws.
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CDC director Dr. Thomas R. Frieden defended smoke-free laws from accusations that they hurt business in restaurants and bars, and called on cities and states without such laws to adopt them.
"Communities have made tremendous progress eliminating smoking from worksites and public places in 60 percent of big cities in the United States. Smoke-free laws save lives and don't hurt business," he said in a press 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."