(CBS/AP) For smokers who like to light up in bars and restaurants and on the job, the clock is ticking. By 2020, federal health authorities predicted Thursday, every state in the nation may ban indoor smoking in public places.
In 2000, no states had comprehensive indoor smoking bans. In 2010, 26 states did.
"It is by no means a foregone conclusion that we'll get there by 2020," said Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health. But the success of the smoking ban movement has been astounding, and seems to be accelerating, he added. "I'm relatively bullish we'll at least get close to that number."
Nearly half of Americans are now covered by state or local indoor smoking bans, according to a new CDC report. Another 10 states have laws than ban smoking in workplaces, bans or restaurants, but not in all three venues.
Some other states have less restrictive laws, like requiring smoking areas with separate ventilation.
Only seven states have no indoor smoking restrictions, although some of their cities do: Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming.
Gary Nolan, director of a smokers' rights group, said he wouldn't be surprised if the CDC's prediction came true. Public health officials and others have been putting tremendous pressure on bars and businesses to bar smoking, he added.
"It wouldn't surprise me if they prevailed," said Nolan, of the Smoker's Club. "It's just a little bit more liberty slipping away at the hands of big government."
Tobacco smoke causes lung cancer, heart disease and other often-deadly maladies, and smoking has been called one of the nation's leading causes of death.
So the choice seems to be a clear one: liberty or death.