The campaign to end smoking in Casper area businesses earned an endorsement Wednesday from the Natrona County Board of Health.

The board unanimously voted to adopt a resolution urging local employers to prohibit smoking in their businesses because of the health problems associated with secondhand smoke. The resolution further asks state and local officials to consider passing ordinances that “control exposure to second-hand smoke” in all businesses and indoor public spaces.

Board members will also send letters to Natrona County legislators and mayors urging action on the issue.

The resolution has no power to force business owners to prohibit smoking. The health board last year declined to pursue a county-wide workplace smoking ban amid concern that it lacked the authority to adopt such a measure.

But the resolution does give Smokefree Natrona County, the coalition advocating for the regulations, more clout when it takes its campaign to the municipal governments of Casper, Mills and Evansville later this year, group member Brandon Daigle explained after Wednesday’s vote.

“We have a governing body that has recognized that this is a health issue, which is first and foremost what our campaign has been about,” he said. “It is a health issue to protect the workers.”

The resolution focuses on the 2010 U.S. Surgeon General’s report on tobacco smoke, which concluded that even limited exposure can cause immediate damage to the body and trigger heart attacks. The report also found that secondhand smoke damages DNA in ways that can ultimately lead to cancer.

“We are trying to protect as many citizens as possible,” Daigle said. “It would be great if businesses [prohibit smoking] on their own. We recognize that is not a reality, so we are hoping to pass the regulation.”

After the vote, health board member Peter Ashbaugh said the resolution was more important than people might think.

“It is a step forward for Smokefree Natrona County to launch their campaign,” he said.

No one at Wednesday’s meeting spoke in opposition to the resolution. Critics of a workplace smoking ban have argued business owners should decide for themselves whether to allow smoking. They also say customers who don’t like cigarettes can simply avoid restaurants and bars that allow smoking.

A handful of Wyoming cities, including Cheyenne and Laramie, have enacted public smoking bans. But the state Legislature has consistently rejected attempts at a comprehensive prohibition.

Contact Joshua Wolfson at (307) 266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com. Visit http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/wolfjammies/ to read his blog. Follow him on Twitter @joshwolfson.

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