Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Public health has always been a matter of public policy

1955. James Dean is driving a Porsche Spyder through the California desert. Speeding recklessly, he hits another car and is killed in the spectacular crash that results. Had he been wearing a seatbelt, he probably would have survived.

The impact thrusts the issue of seatbelts into public consciousness. The same year, Volvo makes restraints standard equipment in its vehicles. But heightened awareness does not translate into significantly increased demand, and few consumers select the seatbelt option offered by the major automakers.

1966. Congress passes the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which requires U.S. automakers to install seatbelts.

1997. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that, since 1975, 100,998 lives have been saved through the use of seatbelts.

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1912. According to a 1998 report by the National Safety Council, there were 18,000 to 21,000 workplace fatalities in 1912.

1970. Representative William Steiger notes that, since the end of WWII, “more than 400,000 Americans were killed by work-related accidents and disease, and close to 50 million more suffered disabling injuries on the job.” Faced with these statistics and the billions of dollars of related economic losses, Congress passes a “safety bill of rights” that establishes the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
2001. OSHA reports that, since 1971, “workplace fatalities have been cut in half” and “occupational injury and illness rates have dropped 40 percent.”

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1898. During the Spanish-American War, U.S. troops are fed half-decomposed meat in what is later investigated as the Embalmed Beef Scandal. Diarrhea cripples some units.

1900. 100 out of every 100,000 Americans suffer from typhoid fever, a food-borne illness.

1906. Following the publication of Upton Sinclair’s exposé of Chicago’s slaughterhouses, Congress passes the Pure Food and Drug Act to extensively regulate the production and labeling of food and medicine.

1920. Fewer than 34 of every 100,000 Americans suffer from typhoid fever.

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1993. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issues a massive report on secondhand smoke. The report confirms the Surgeon General’s finding that secondhand smoke causes cancer, and it classifies this smoke as a Group A carcinogen, a distinction shared by 15 other pollutants like asbestos and radon. The EPA estimates that 3,000 Americans die annually from lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke exposure, and it concludes that 2,200 of those deaths result from exposure through work or social situations.

1994. California bans smoking in restaurants.

1998. California enacts a comprehensive smoking ban that prohibits smoking in all bars and casinos.

1999. California’s State Board of Equalization reports that, in the first full year since the enactment of the smoking ban, bar and tavern revenue increased between 5.1 and 6.1 percent. Similar studies across the United States show that smoking bans maintain or increase business revenues.
The National Institutes of Health estimate that between 34,000 and 62,000 Americans die each year from heart disease associated with secondhand-smoke exposure.

2000. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that California’s lung and bronchus cancer incidence rate dropped 14 percent from 1988 to 1997, while other areas experienced an average decrease of only 2.7 percent. This difference is attributed to California’s early and aggressive public-health efforts.

2002. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls smoking “stupid” and proposes to extend the city’s smoking ban to include all restaurants and bars so that “no one should have to breathe poison to hold a job or frequent an indoor public space.” The New York State Restaurant Association drops its opposition to a ban.
Delaware bans smoking in all restaurants and bars.

Tuesday, October 1, 2002. The Madison Common Council votes on a proposal to ban smoking in establishments that generate less than 50 percent of their revenue through the sale of alcohol. Most bars would be unaffected.
Ald. Tom Powell, District 5, has called the measure “long overdue.”
Bryant Walker Smith ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in civil engineering.

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