Every year when National Non-Smoking Week comes around in January, our workforce, and the health promotion team in particular, wonder how much longer it will be before we live in a smoke-free public environment.

We can, of course, live, work and play smoke-free in our homes and yards, and even in our vehicles, but not our communities. Until that time, we look to government to protect the public and employees from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke.

The dangers of exposure to second-hand smoke have been well-documented with scientific evidence and there are few, if any, arguments against it. The toll in suffering and death is staggering.

Tobacco use remains the largest single preventable cause of death and disease in BC, killing more than 6,000 British Columbians each year. Second-hand smoke is linked to the death of up to 140 British Columbians each year.

There has been progress, led in part by theCanadian Cancer Society, but our work is not finished by any means.  This month, the Canadian Cancer Society, BC andYukon, is reminding our MLAs that we need regulations to ban smoking on all outdoor patios of bars and restaurants, as well as on beaches, and in parks and playgrounds.

And while, BC has the lowest percentage of smokers (14%), the incidence and death rates are consistent with the rest ofCanada. We are very concerned about the numbers of women and youth who are smoking.

Eliminating smoking in public places creates a healthy environment for youth, who might be less likely to take up the habit, and encourages their parents to quit or cut back.

This year, during National Non-Smoking Week, please encourage your MLA, or the BC Health Minister, to follow the lead of 30 BC municipalities and four other provinces, and keep BC beautiful and smoke-free.