Posts Tagged ‘smoking’

Nevada’s Health Ranking Improves In New National Report, But Obesity, Smoking Remain Serious Concerns

By Sean Whaley | 2:55 pm December 16th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s overall health improved five spots this year compared to the rest of the nation but still ranks in the bottom 10, according to the 22nd edition of America’s Health Rankings.

Nevada’s health improved from 47th in 2010 to 42nd in the new report.

The good news: Nevada has a lower prevalence of obesity than other states, ranking 4th with 23.1 percent of the adult population identified as overweight.

Smoking has also decreased significantly in Nevada, from 29 percent to 21.3 percent of the adult population in the last ten years.

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki via Wikimedia Commons.

But these positive developments mask just how serious these health issues continue to be, said Dr. Steven Evans, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare of Nevada.

While Nevada’s obesity rate may be lower when compared with other states, the reality is that in the past ten years, obesity has increased from 17.9 percent to 23.1 percent of the adult population. There are now 470,000 obese adults in the state.

And while Nevada’s smoking rate has declined due in large part to voter approval of tough smoking restrictions in 2006, there are still 434,000 adults who smoke.

“Obesity has actually increased in the past 10 years,” Evans said. “So although we, compared to the rest of the country, have done better, there is still a significant portion of our population that is obese.

“We definitely have not turned the corner on that health issue and it has probably become our No. 1 health issue we need to start worrying about,” he said.

“I almost don’t even want to celebrate the fact that we are less obese than the rest of the United States because we still have significant issues with that,” Evans said.

The report was released earlier this month by the United Health Foundation in collaboration with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

“America’s health rankings from United Health Foundation is an incredibly valuable tool for us to clearly understand health trends facing us as a nation and here in Nevada,” Evans said. “By identifying the key opportunities we face as a state we can pursue innovative solutions to those opportunities.”

The report shows a few other positives for Nevada.

The state has a low incidence of infectious disease, ranking 4th with 4.8 cases per 100,000 of population. Nevada also has a low rate of preventable hospitalizations, ranking 15th at 58.6 per 1,000 Medicare enrollees.

But there is more bad news as well.

Nevada has a low high school graduation rate, ranking 50th with only 56.3 percent of incoming ninth graders graduating within four years. Evans said those with higher education levels tend to have access to health insurance and take better care of their health overall.

Nevada also has a high violent crime rate, again ranking 50th with 661 offenses per 100,000 population, and a low immunization rate, ranking 49th with 84.6 percent of children aged 19 to 35 months covered with the appropriate inoculations.

In the past year, the percentage of children in poverty increased from 17.9 percent to 23.6 percent of persons under age 18. And in the past five years, diabetes increased from 7.1 percent to 8.5 percent of the adult population. There are now 173,000 Nevada adults with diabetes.

The report shows that for the fifth year in a row, Vermont was the nation’s healthiest state. States that showed the most substantial improvement include New York and New Jersey, both moving up six places. Idaho and Alaska showed the most downward movement. Idaho dropped 10 spots, from number nine to 19 in this year’s rankings, and Alaska dropped five places.

It also shows that the nation’s overall health did not improve from 2010 to 2011 because gains in one area were offset by worsening conditions in another.

One example of this stagnation is improvements in the number of smokers being off-set by worsening rates of obesity. The rankings found that, for every person who quit smoking in 2011, another person became obese.

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Audio clips:

Dr. Steven Evans, chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare of Nevada, says obesity has actually increased in Nevada in the past decade

121611Evans1 :17 that is obese.”

Evans says Nevada’s obesity ranking compared to other states is no cause for celebration:

121611Evans2 :14 issues with that.”

 

 

Gov. Sandoval Signs, Vetoes Stack of Bills on Deadline Day

By Sean Whaley | 5:57 pm June 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY – On deadline day for Gov. Brian Sandoval to act on the remaining bills from the 2011 legislative session, measures extending existing taxes for two more years, authorizing the creation of a toll road around Boulder City and banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving were all approved.

Gov. Brian Sandoval signed dozens of bills into law by a deadline today./Nevada News Bureau file photo

Also approved was a controversial bill allowing adults-only bars that have smoking to serve food. The measure was opposed by anti-smoking opponents, but welcomed by tavern owners who testified their businesses were suffering from the vote-approved Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act.

“Every session we hear legislators bemoan the fact we’re at the top of all the bad lists and the bottom of the good lists,” commented Michael Hackett, consultant for the Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition, when the bill was approved by the Legislature. “Obviously, that’s still acceptable for most legislators.”

Sandoval also signed the last of three major campaign reform bills sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller, which will make major changes to reporting of contributions to candidates and banning some questionable campaign practices.

Secretary of State Ross Miller saw all three of his major campaign finance reform bills signed into law by Gov. Sandoval./Nevada News Bureau file photo

“It’s a substantial victory for voters today and the final piece of our campaign and election reform package has been enacted now,” Miller said. “So I think voters can anticipate significant improvement in the next election, one that will be visible to them in terms of transparency and disclosure.”

Among other reforms, the bills require electronic filing of campaign contribution and expense reports so the public can easily search the information. They will also improve disclosures by third party groups that run campaign ads.

“That’s probably the biggest complaint that we get in our office every election cycle is that the public doesn’t know who is funding the TV ads or the mailers that they get in the mailbox, Miller said. “This will significantly improve those disclosure requirements.”

Sandoval signed dozens of bills, but vetoed several others, including Assembly Bill 578, which Republican critics said would lead to the creation of a full-time Legislature, and Assembly Bill 301, which addressed the restoration of voting rights for ex-felons.

The veto of AB301 was criticized by the ACLU of Nevada.

“We are surprised and disheartened that the governor vetoed a bill which would have created easily understandable, reliable laws,” said Dane Claussen, executive director for the ACLU of Nevada. “Gov. Sandoval rejected an opportunity to clarify our voting laws not just for the voting public, but also our county officials and clerks.”

He also vetoed a controversial bill that was amended in the last minutes of the legislative session to include a transmission line for NV Energy.

“To increase utility rates on Nevadans struggling to emerge from a severe economic recession would result in the imposition of an unnecessary and unfair burden on our recovery,” Sandoval said in his veto message.

In one unusual decision, Sandoval allowed a bill relating to pet cemeteries to become law without his signature.

“Although I have not been involved in the drafting or the subsequent passage of this bill, when my office conducted our internal review, it became clear that a member of my family may be affected by SB191 becoming law,” he said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Sandoval also signed the major bills establishing the state budget for the two years beginning July 1, as well as four major education reform measures that were part of a package agreed to in exchange for extending a 0.35 percent sales tax increase and a higher payroll tax rate for the state’s largest businesses.

The $620 million tax extension bill, which will include the higher revenues through June 30, 2013, wasn’t all bad news for anti-tax advocates, however. It also eliminates the payroll tax for 70 percent of Nevada’s businesses, those with payrolls of less than $250,000 a year. The taxes were approved by the 2009 Legislature for two years to balance the current budget. That had been set to expire June 30 until the tax and reform package was agreed to by Sandoval and most lawmakers.

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says the three campaign finance bills are a substantial victory for voters:

061711Miller1 :16 transparency and disclosure.”

Miller says bills make many reforms, including new disclosure requirements for third-party groups:

061711Miller2 :17 those disclosure requirements.”

 

Bill To Allow Food Service In Adult-Only Bars And Taverns Wins Legislative Approval

By Sean Whaley | 10:27 pm June 6th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A controversial bill that would let stand-alone bars and taverns that allow smoking by their adult-only customers to also serve food won final legislative approval today with just three hours left in the 2011 session.

Assembly Bill 571 now goes to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his review. If signed into law, it would take effect immediately.

The bill would change the prohibition in the Clean Indoor Air Act approved by voters in 2006 to allow food service and smoking in such establishments that serve only customers aged 21 and older. Currently bars and taverns that allow smoking cannot serve food except incidentally.

The bill passed the Senate on a 13-8 vote after seeing narrow approval in the Assembly on Sunday.

At a hearing on the bill earlier today in the Senate Finance Committee, Sean Higgins, representing the Nevada Tavern Owners Association, said the industry has provided information to lawmakers showing the loss of business to the industry because of the smoking ban.

Health officials had argued that the last-minute bill, only introduced May 20, goes against the wishes of voters and is another effort to chip away at the restrictions in the act. They had also provided their own information showing that bars have not suffered economically as a result of the smoking restrictions.

Bill To Allow Food Service In Adult-Only Bars And Taverns With Smoking Moves Forward As Time Runs Short

By Sean Whaley | 2:21 pm June 5th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A controversial bill that would let stand-alone bars and taverns that allow smoking by their adult-only customers to also serve food won approval in the Assembly today and now heads to the Senate with only one day remaining in the session.

Assembly Bill 571 would change the prohibition in the Clean Indoor Air Act approved by voters in 2006 to allow food service and smoking in such establishments that serve only customers aged 21 and older. Currently bars and taverns that allow smoking cannot serve food except incidentally.

The bill passed 23-19.

Sean Higgins, representing the Nevada Tavern Owners Association, said the industry has provided information to lawmakers showing the loss of business to the industry because of the smoking ban.

“We did a study that included 77 percent of those restricted locations – Jeremy Aguero and Applied Analysis did it – and it showed that in 2007 we lost 17 percent of our top-line revenue that equated to 30 percent-plus of the bottom line,” he said.

But health official argue that the last-minute bill, only introduced May 20, goes against the wishes of voters and is another effort to chip away at the restrictions in the act. They have also provided their own information showing that bars have not suffered as a result of the smoking restrictions.

Michael Hackett, a consultant for the Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition, said the first attack on the act came in 2009, when an exception allowing smoking in convention facilities at tobacco-related trade shows was approved by lawmakers.

“That was probably the first little chip-away at the act we saw,” he said. “This certainly would be another one. The overall concern is this is definitely not what the voters supported in 2006.”

Voters were clear they wanted smoking banned in all bars that have food-handling licenses, Hackett said.

The coalition is also concerned that the bill would allow the businesses to create separate fully-enclosed smoking areas for adult patrons while offering non-smoking areas for families as well.

“Again, it still is creating a new area where smoking is going to be allowed,” Hackett said. “There is no requirement for any kind of separate ventilation or anything like that to make sure that the smoke stays specifically within that designated area.”

The changes would also create difficulties for agencies enforcing the Clean Indoor Air Act, he said.

Higgins said opponents of the bill are trying to confuse the issue. The legislation is intended to allow bars that serve only to adults to allow smoking and food service, he said.

“A stand-alone tavern can have a restaurant component which is non-smoking and people under the age of 21 can be in there, they can do that today,” Higgins said. “The age-restricted is simply someplace where no one under 21 can go. They are wrong, they are incorrect and they are trying to throw up red herrings.”

Higgins acknowledged that time is short to see final action, but as long as the bill is alive it has a chance to win approval.

“It’s alive right now, that’s all I can say,” he said.

Audio clips:

Tavern Owners lobbyist Sean Higgins says the group has produced evidence the smoking ban has hurt the industry:

060511Higgins1 :15 the bottom line.”

Higgins says smoking opponents are trying to confuse the issue:

060511Higgins2 :16 up red herrings.”

Clean Air Coalition lobbyist Michael Hackett says the bill is another attempt to chip-away at the will of the voters:

060511Hackett1 :13 supported in 2006.”

Hackett says the bill also allows new fully-enclosed smoking areas in bars and taverns without any ventilation requirements:

060511Hackett2 :12 that designated area.”

Smoking Bill Would Establish Smoking Zones On College Campuses

By Andrew Doughman | 11:56 am April 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY — A bill that would partially ban smoking on college campuses passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee today.

Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, amended Assembly Bill 128 to require colleges and universities to establish campus smoking zones outside of which a person would not be able to smoke.

Under the amendment, the smoking zones would have to be a reasonable distance away from walking paths and doorways.

In an earlier hearing, legislators had criticized his bill for banning smoking on campuses outright.

The chairman of the committee, Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, had said he was afraid it would drive smokers across the street from campuses and disrupt local businesses. He wondered where smokers would end up.

“So, the parking lot in front of Chipotle?” Horne said. “So I can eat my burrito bowl and pass through a cloud of smoke?”

The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006 already outlaws smoking inside of buildings, but this has not rid campuses of tobacco smoke, said Aizley, a former professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The amendment seemed to quell opposition to the bill.

“I think here it is a good compromise,” Horne said. “The campuses can identify places on campus away from entries into buildings where persons can have a smoke.”

Three legislators still voted against the bill.

“There’s a personal freedom factor that we’re kind of starting to get into a point where we’re infringing on people,” said Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks.

He said it was wrong to mandate the establishment of smoking zones at Nevada’s college campuses when no such zones are required on the Capitol grounds outside the Legislature.

Hansen’s comments were, however, in the minority. He joined Assemblymen Kelly Kite, R-Minden, and Mark Sherwood, R-Las Vegas, in voting against the bill.

 

Proposal Would Ban Smoking On All Nevada College And University Campuses

By Andrew Doughman | 9:47 am February 25th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Students who smoke may soon find it more difficult to do so. A proposal heard today would ban smoking on all Nevada’s university and college campuses.

The Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006 already outlaws smoking inside of buildings, but this has not rid campuses of tobacco smoke, said Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, the bill’s sponsor and a former professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

“My goal in introducing this bill is to make it possible for students to walk on campus and not be exposed to secondhand smoke,” he said. “There are entrances to buildings where smokers cluster because they’re outside, and you have to walk through the smoke to get inside.”

The bill received support from various medical associations whose representatives testified that exposure to secondhand smoke is both harmful and easily preventible. Christopher Roller of the Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition said 466 campuses in the United States already have a complete tobacco ban.

The Nevada Faculty Alliance also supported Aizley’s bill.

At the hearing, Aizley also submitted an amendment to his bill that would establish smoking on campus as a misdemeanor for which someone could receive a citation.

Although no one testified against the bill at the Assembly’s judiciary committee meeting, the chairman, William Horne, D-Las Vegas, had several concerns.

Horne, a UNLV graduate himself, imagined smokers fleeing the campus for a cigarette break.

“Where in that immediate vicinity would they be able to do that?” he asked.

Showing his familiarity with the local geography, he rattled off a list of businesses adjacent to the UNLV campus, many of which also don’t allow smoking on their premises.

“So, the parking lot in front of Chipotle?” Horne said. “So I can eat my burrito bowl and pass through a cloud of smoke?”

He seemed to be saying that an enforced ban would create a smoke-free environment for students and faculty, but would likely expose those in the immediate vicinity to more secondhand smoke.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, D-Las Vegas, asked whether or not smoking would be allowed in parking lots.

The bill language states that smoking would be banned “on any property or campus owned or occupied by any component of the Nevada System of Higher Education and used for any purpose related to the System,” which would seem to include university parking lots.

The committee did not vote on the bill.

“I’d like to see if we can come to some kind of compromise,” Horne said to Aizley at the conclusion of the hearing. “They [Smokers] should have at least some place that they could go that’s convenient to do it.”

“My intention is to have the ability to walk through the campus smoke free,” Aizley responded.

Aizley said he would examine possibilities for creating smoking zones that would still allow people to walk through campus without breathing secondhand smoke.