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Health care costs can be dramatically lowered if the public is protected from deadly and costly public health dangers:

  • Ban smoking in public places: Public smoking bans improve the health of smokers and non-smokers, particularly workers in restaurants and bars.  Despite dire predictions from the food service and tobacco industries, public smoking bans do not have a negative impact on local economies.  In fact, several communities experienced increased economic activity and job growth following implementation of public smoking bans. 
  • Ban Toxic Chemicals from Consumer Products: Reducing environmental hazards and the diseases they generate is key to lowering health care costs.  Most recently, states have taken the initiative to eliminate lead, phthalates (a toxic softening agent used to make plastic flexible), and other toxic chemicals used in toys and other consumer products.  California banned most phthalates with AB 1108 and Washington State passed the nation's toughest regulation - reducing the allowable lead level to 40 parts per million (ppm) and limiting phthalates and cadmium in children's toys and products.
  • List Calories on Restaurant Menus: Just as we have come to rely on the nutritional information listed on the packaging of store-bought foods, listing calories on menus can help patrons size up the nutritional content of restaurant foods and make healthier choices.  New York, San Francisco and Washington's King County, which includes Seattle, have passed menu-listing laws. 
  • Ban Trans-Fats from Food ProductionSeveral cities, including New York City, have banned partially hydrogenated oils, or trans fats, from food preparation because of their role in significantly increasing consumers' risk of heart disease.  A 2008 Zogby poll found that more than 7 of 10 New York voters want a statewide ban on partially hydrogenated oils, which are the only source of trans-fats.  Trans fats are used in numerous prepared and packaged foods like French fries, margarines, crackers, and doughnuts.

Resources:

Progressive States Network - Economic Impact of Smoke-Free Laws on Local Economies

Washington - 2008 HB 2647, The Children's Safe Products Act

Center for Science in the Public Interest - Menu Labeling: Resources and Background

Center for Science in the Public Interest - Q&A: Trans fat