Nov. 15, 2012 -- The CDC says 30 of the 50 biggest U.S. cities are smoke-free, with absolutely no smoking allowed in any bar, restaurant, or workplace.
And the news is even better than it looks.
Several more of these big cities at least partially ban smoking. Los Angeles and Atlanta, for example, are covered by state laws that ban much smoking but fall short of the CDC's 100% smoke-free designation.
Overall, about half of Americans are getting less secondhand smoke exposure because of state or local bans on indoor smoking.
"Communities have made tremendous progress eliminating smoking from work sites and public places," CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, says in a news release.
Even so, the CDC says, some 3,400 nonsmokers die each year from lung cancer and 46,000 die from heart disease caused by secondhand smoke.
"If we can protect workers and the public in the remaining 20 largest cities, 16 million people would be better protected from cancer and heart disease caused by secondhand smoke," Frieden says.
Ten of the 20 large U.S. cities that aren't covered by comprehensive smoking laws are in the South. And 10 of them are in states with laws that prevent local governments from passing anti-smoking restrictions.
On the positive side, 26 states and the District of Columbia have passed comprehensive smoke-free laws.
This marks a lot of progress. Just 12 years ago, only one large U.S. city -- San Jose, Calif. -- was covered by such a law.
The CDC's report on smoke-free laws appears in the Nov. 16 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.