By 2020 restaurants, bars and work sites could be smoke-free throughout nearly all states except in the South.

That’s the prediction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By last year, according to a report in the CDCs Morbidity and Mortality Weekly, the number of states with comprehensive smoking bans was 26, up from zero a decade earlier.

Delaware in 2002 became the first state to fully prohibit smoking in restaurants, bars and work sites, followed by New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Washington. The states embracing smoking bans most recently, in 2010, were Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

In 1994, eight years before Delaware acted, California enacted a broad smoking ban, but the CDC characterized it as being less comprehensive because it exempted employee smoking rooms, as long as they were ventilated.

While the CDC said that smoking bans will spread, Southern states show scant signs of following the trend. Not one of the states in the South has passed a comprehensive smoking ban, although some have restrictions. For example, Florida and Louisiana have smoke-free restaurants and worksites, but smokers are free to light up in bars.

South Carolina, Kentucky and Mississippi are Southern states with no restrictions on smoking whatsoever. Still, the Los Angeles Times notes that some researchers are hopeful that some local or limited statewide restrictions already in place in the South could presage a broader move toward statewide smoking bans.

That likely would be a welcome development for Allen Johnson, editorial page editor of the Greensboro, N.C. News & Record. In a blog post last September, he said that some in North Carolina complain about the state smoking ban in indoors bars and restaurants, but he took a contrary view: “I don’t think they’re restrictive enough.”

Johnson recounts a dining experience where smokers were allowed on the patio, preventing him from enjoying his meal under a clear, night sky.  Extending a ban to outdoors areas, he writes, could help revive Greensboro’s downtown.

Southern states aren’t the only holdouts. Wyoming and Indiana have no smoking restrictions.

With the number of state bans now in force, half of the U.S. population is protected from secondhand smoke, and the diseases it causes. According to the CDC, secondhand smoke is responsible for an estimated 46,000 heart disease deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths each year among non-smoking adults.

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