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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

National Smoke-Free Homes Event, Cleveland, Ohio

04/11/2003
Remarks of Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
National Smoke-Free Homes Event
Cleveland, Ohio

April 11, 2003


Thank you Tom (Skinner) for that introduction. I want to thank Howard Strong & Mickey Brown for giving me the opportunity to ride over on one of your new clean school buses with a great group of students from Tremont Elementary School.

It = s great to be here today, Mayor Jane Campbell, to talk about the work underway here in Cleveland and at EPA to protect the health of our children by improving the quality of our air. While all of us want and need clean air to breathe, it is especially important for children, who are more susceptible to the harmful health effects caused by air pollution.

One of the most prevalent diseases among children is asthma, with over 6 million children under the age of 18 suffering from this disease. While we do not know all the causes of asthma, we do know that air pollution can make asthma worse. That is why this Administration = s work to improve air quality will have a direct impact on improving the quality of life for children with asthma and other respiratory problems. From our Clean School Bus Initiative to the President = s Clear Skies Act, we are working towards getting real results in improving the quality of our outdoor air.

Though most of us probably think about outdoor air when we think about air pollution, indoor air pollution can be just as harmful. And one of the most dangerous forms of indoor air pollution is second hand smoke. Over half of the world = s 1.6 billion children under the age of 15 are exposed to tobacco smoke, and every year, second hand smoke increases the severity of asthma for 1 million children in America. Much has been done to decrease the effects of second hand smoke in public places, but children who spend most of their time in homes with smokers are still being exposed at alarmingly high rates.

In fact, 43% of the people who called our Asthma Hotline last year said they allowed smoking in their home and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention around 5 million children under the age of 6 are exposed to second hand smoke at home. This exposure causes ear infections, SIDS, bronchitis, and pneumonia and exacerbates asthma - resulting in tens of thousands of visits to doctor = s offices and hospitals every year. In order to address this situation, EPA launched a National Smoke-Free Home Challenge in October of 2001 encouraging parents to make their homes smoke-free.

There is no doubt that second hand smoke is a serious health risk for children, and yet it is entirely preventable. By pledging to make your home smoke-free, you can simply choose not to smoke indoors and not let anyone else smoke inside your home. Making that choice will mean cleaner air and a healthier environment for thousands of children. A little later, we will recognize some mothers who have already made this commitment, and those who want to sign the pledge today will have an opportunity. EPA is working in partnership with many organizations such as the ones represented here today to raise awareness about the dangers of second hand smoke and to encourage more parents to make the smoke-free pledge.

From a toll free hotline B 1-866-SMOKE-FREE B to a new public service announcement that will be unveiled this morning, we are working hard to get the word out on this important issue. However, we can = t do it alone. We need and depend upon the leadership of local communities and cities such as Cleveland to make this effort a success. Here in Cleveland, you have taken the initiative to protect your children from second hand smoke by launching your own city-wide smoke-free homes campaign. Across the city, including here at this hospital, there will be booths set up where parents can get information about secondhand smoke and where they can take the smoke-free home pledge. As a result of your efforts, children all across this area will breathe easier.

You should be commended for your leadership on this issue and for setting an important example that other cities and localities can follow. If we are to ensure a healthier and brighter future for our children, then all of us B government and individuals alike B must redouble our efforts to eliminate this environmental hazard. Keeping a smoke-free home is a simple step we can all take to help improve the health of children everywhere. Thank you.