Freedom to Breathe Act

How the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act is Saving Lives

More than 42 million Americans smoke, which results in about 52 million nonsmokers in the US being exposed to secondhand smoke. Every year, over 480,000 Americans die as a result of their smoking habit, and over 40,000 nonsmokers are killed by secondhand smoke. (Source: CDC Fact Sheet, updated November 16, 2017).

Secondhand smoke is the cause of a variety of health conditions in adults, including lung cancer and coronary heart disease. According to the US Surgeon General, between 1964 and 2014, 2.5 million Americans died from exposure to passive smoking. The report also concluded that passive smoking is a definitive cause of stroke, which makes the phenomenon not only a severe public health issue but also one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in America today.

The Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act was created to regulate where people are allowed to smoke and to outline the responsibilities of managers and employers who carry a legal obligation to protect the customers they serve and the staff and workers in their employ.

The Freedom to Breathe provision, in effect since 2007, amended the MCIAA to provide more robust protection for employees and the general public against the health risks of secondhand smoke.

What is secondhand smoke?

Secondhand smoking is the inhalation of exhaled smoke, or environmental tobacco smoke, by individuals other than the active smoker. Passive smoking can be broken down into two components: mainstream smoke and sidestream smoke.

Mainstream smoke is the smoke inhaled and then exhaled by a smoker. Sidestream smoke is released from the lighted end of a cigarette, cigar, or a pipe, or the tobacco burning in a hookah. Although vape from e juice is not technically smoke there is still a chance of secondhand vapor

Of the two, sidestream smoke is the more lethal as it lingers long after the source of the smoke has been extinguished (the cigarette or cigar stubbed out, etc.). About 85% of secondhand smoke is sidestream smoke; it affects both smokers and nonsmokers for the remainder of the time they spend in the same room.

Tobacco smoke contains thousands of different chemicals, at least sixty of which have been proven to cause cancer.

Sidestream smoke is known to contain:

  • Phenol
  • Styrene
  • Benzene
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Nicotine
  • Carbon monoxide

The amounts of these chemicals released into the air can differ between main- and sidestream smoke. The incomplete burning of tobacco, for example, can result in higher levels of carbon monoxide in sidestream smoke than that which a smoker exhales.

Other factors are also involved in determining the amount of secondhand smoke a nonsmoker ingests:

  • Air temperature
  • Humidity
  • Ventilation
  • Number of smokers

Which is more dangerous, mainstream or sidestream smoke?

According to the American Lung Association, sidestream smoke is more dangerous than mainstream because the concentration of chemicals is higher (due to burning at a lower temperature) and it produces smaller particles that can enter and penetrate body tissue with greater ease. Leaked research by the Philip Morris Tobacco Company also found that sidestream smoke was:

  • 3 x more toxic per gram (weight)
  • 4 x more toxic in particle matter
  • 2 to 6 x more tumorigenic (cancer causing)

Who is most at risk?

Secondhand smoke is a concern for everyone. But the risk to young children and pregnant women is particularly acute, because the exposure occurs during a time of rapid cell division. In simple words, they simply have to live longer with whatever damage is being done.

People with existing conditions, such as asthma, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), coronary heart disease and lung cancer, are another group exposed to increased risk.

How long does secondhand smoke hang around?

Just because secondhand smoke dissipates and disappears doesn’t mean the danger vanishes with it. Toxic particles released from passive smoking, such as cyanide and arsenic can remain on surfaces for extended periods of time and can cause problems for two significant reasons.

The first is that the toxins can be absorbed through the skin, (think of a toddler crawling around the room,) and the second is due to what is known as ‘off-gassing,’ a process whereby particles revert to gases and are again released into the air.

The health risks of this ‘third-hand smoke’ have as yet not undergone extensive study, but it should be sufficient to note that researchers are ‘considerably concerned’ and it’s probably a sensible idea to avoid it as much as possible.

How does the Freedom to Breathe amendment help against secondhand smoke?

Together with the CIAA, Freedom to Breathe does propose a plan to combat secondhand smoke; it provides nonsmokers with smoke-free work and leisure environments and regulates where smokers are allowed to light up.

Generally speaking, smoking is prohibited in all indoor workplaces and in all indoor places that can be accessed by the public, including:

  • Health care facilities and clinics
  • Daycare premises
  • Arenas, auditoriums, and meeting rooms
  • Private and public educational institutions
  • Home offices with at least one on-site employee
  • Home offices used as a venue to meet with customers or clients during work hours
  • Public transportation, work vehicles, and taxis if more than one person is in the vehicle
  • Communal areas of rental buildings, motels, and hotels
  • Bars, restaurants, and private clubs
  • Office and industrial workplaces
  • Retail stores

But the CIAA doesn’t just regulate where people are not allowed to smoke; it also specifies those environments where smoking is permitted.

For instance, places such private homes and rooms, private vehicles, sleeping rooms in hotels and motels, stores selling tobacco products, theater performances, family farm buildings, plus outdoor smoking, regardless of the distance from the nearest building, and more are exempt from the smoking ban.

What are the responsibilities of employers and managers?

Facility managers, line and floor managers, and employers in general play a crucial role in controlling the smoking habits in their places of business.

They are required by law to:

  • Post ‘No Smoking’ signs
  • Refrain from providing ashtrays
  • Refrain from serving non-compliant persons
  • Use lawful methods to deal with people who refuse to adhere to the smoking ban

“It is also important to note that under the MCIAA, retaliation is prohibited. Employers and managers are not allowed to dismiss, refuse to hire, discriminate, penalize, or in any way retaliate against a customer, applicant or employee who wishes to exercise their right to a smoke-free environment.”

But does legislation really work?

The short answer is yes. While the primary purpose of the MCIAA and Freedom to Breathe remains true to its initial goals; to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke, studies have shown that the legislation has motivated smokers to quit, helped reduce smoking initiation among the young, and significantly reduced smoking prevalence among workers and the general population. And for that, we can all breathe a great big sigh of relief.

Voting Results:

Local Representatives(40)

Representative Party District Yes/No
Tom Anzelc DFL Balsam Township No
Karla Bigham DFL Cottage Grove Yes
Julie Bunn DFL Lake Elmo Yes
David Dill DFL Crane Lake No
Kent Eken DFL Twin Valley No
Tim Faust DFL Mora Yes
Larry Haws DFL St. Cloud Yes
Bill Hilty DFL Finlayson Yes
Tom Huntley DFL Duluth Yes
Al Juhnke DFL Willmar Yes
Lyle Koenen DFL Grove City No
Bernie Lieder DFL Crookston No
Paul Marquart DFL Dil Worth No
Frank Moe DFL DFL-Bemidji No
Mary Murphy DFL Hermantown Yes
Dave Olin DFL Thief River Falls Yes
Mary Ellen Otremba DFL Long Praire No
Aaron Peterson DFL Appleton Yes
Tom Rukavina DFL Virginia No
Brita Sailer DFL Park Rapids Yes
Tony Sertich DFL Chisholm No
Loren Solberg DFL Grand Rapids No
Marsha Swails DFL Woodbury Yes
Sandy Wollschlager DFL Cannon Falls Yes
Matt Dean R Dellwood No
Pat Garofalo R Farmington No
Rod Hamilton R Mountain Lake No
Bud Heidgerken R Freeport No
Larry Howes R Walker Absent
Mike Jaros R Duluth No
Morrie Lanning R Moorhead Yes
Doug Magus R Slayton No
Denny McNamara R Hastings No
Bud Nornes R Fergus Falls No
Dennis Ozment R Rosemount No
Marty Seifert R Marshall No
Dean Simpson R Perhamn No
Steve Sviggum R Kenyon No
Dean Urdahl R Grove City Yes
Torrey Westrom R Elbow Lake Absent

Local Representatives Vote Count by Party

DFL(Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party) – Total 24, Yes: 13,  No: 11
R(Republican Party) – Total 16, Yes: 2, No: 12,  Absent: 2

Total Yes: 15
Total No: 23
Total Absent: 2

Local Senators(22)

Senator Party District Yes/No
Thomas Bakk DFL Cook No
Gary Kubly DFL Granite Falls Yes
Keith Langseth DFL Glyndon Yes
Tony Lourey DFL Kerrick Yes
Steve Murphy DFL Red Wing Yes
Mary Olson DFL Bemidji Yes
Kathy Salzman DFL Woodbury Yes
Tom Saxhaug DFL Grand Rapids No
Katie Sieben DFL Cottage Grove Yes
Rod Skoe DFL Clearbrook No
Dan Skogen DFL Hewitt Yes
Yvonne Prettner Solon DFL Duluth Yes
LeRoy Stumpf DFL Plummer Absent
David Tomassoni DFL Chisholm No
Jim Vickerman DFL Tracy No
Steve Dille R Dassel Yes
Michelle Fischbach R Paynesville Yes
Dennis Frederickson R New Ulm Yes
Joe Gimse R Willmar Yes
Bill Ingebrigsten R Alexandria No
Pat Pariseau R Farmington No
Ray Vandeveer R Forest Lake Absent

Local Senators Vote Count by Party

DFL(Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party) – Total 15, Yes: 9,  No: 5, Absent: 1
R(Republican Party) – Total 7, Yes: 4, No: 2,  Absent: 1

Total Yes: 13
Total No: 7
Total Absent: 2

Quotes from Local Representatives and Local Senators talking about the Freedom to Breathe Act

“You are going to vote them out of business” – Rep. Bud Heidgerken, R-Freeport (referring to small bars/businesses)

“This piece of legislation turned out to be just plain mean” – Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount, he also said that is was “tyranny, oppressive governmental power.”

“It will improve people’s health.” – Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth