The U.S. Surgeon General concluded in 2006 that "nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent."

On the flip side of health, studies by Indiana University found that comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws result in immediate and significant improvements in heart health, particularly in non-smokers. The study tracked 22 months prior to and following the implementation of a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law.

Now is the time for Indiana to enact a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law that protects employees from exposure to secondhand smoke in all enclosed workplaces in Indiana, including bars, restaurants and gambling facilities.

Hoosier United Methodists have joined with Episcopalians, Disciples, Lutherans, Roman Catholics and a number of health-related non-profits including the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, and the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation agency of state government plus more than 20 other organizations in supporting a comprehensive smoke-free workplace bill to be introduced this month in the General Assembly by Representative Charlie Brown of Gary.

The movement is known as the Indiana Campaign for Smoke-free Air: Promoting a smoke-free environment in all workplaces.

As people of faith, pastors come into constant contact with the results of tobacco from premature deaths to debilitating diseases such as lung cancer, mouth cancer and heart attacks caused by cigarette smoke. Most of these diseases can be caused by second-hand smoke in workplace environments.

In fact, secondhand smoke is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It causes between 35,000 and 40,000 deaths from heart disease every year, including 3,000 lung cancer deaths among otherwise healthy nonsmokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including more than 50 known carcinogens. Comprehensive smoke-free workplace policies reduce tobacco-related illnesses and the costs of treating them.

No one should have to chose between their health and their job. Secondhand smoke is a workplace hazard. Restaurant and bar workers are 50 percent more likely than the general population to develop lung cancer, largely because of their exposure to secondhand smoke on the job.

Smoke-free air laws work. Studies in Indiana and across the country have proven that smoke-free air laws create cleaner air, healthier workers and show a significant and immediate decrease in heart attacks.

Smoke-free air laws are good for business. Studies in Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas and Florida have shown that smoke-free ordinances do not have a negative impact on restaurant and bar revenues. Such laws save lives and money. Secondhand smoke costs our nation $6 billion annually in health care and other costs.

Even with the these facts before them, lawmakers will be bombarded with information from the tobacco industry and other sectors of the business community that will oppose such a law citing everything from economic downturn to personal rights of smokers to defeat a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law in Indiana.

More than 35 Indiana communities have smoke-free workplace ordinances including the new Indianapolis International Airport. Your help is needed in convincing your lawmakers that such a law is a good thing for Indiana's health and well being. Join the movement today by signing the Hoosier Faith and Health Resolution for a smoke-free Indiana. One resolution is for congregations and faith-based organizations and a like resolution is for individuals. Sign the resolution and fax to the number indicated at the bottom of the resolution or mail it to Together at The United Methodist Church, 1100 W. 42nd Street, Suite 210, Indianapolis, IN 46208.

These resolutions will be distributed to the members of the Indiana General Assembly on March 3 following a complimentary noon luncheon for supporters of a smoke-free Indiana at Christ Church Cathedral on Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. More information will be included in next month's issue.

Thank you for your support for a healthier Indiana. This is another way United Methodists can make a difference in Indiana.

- Daniel R. Gangler