May. 15 2002
Washington, DC — Delaware citizens, especially its children, can look forward to a healthier future because of the courageous and far-sighted action by the Legislature to enact one of the strongest clean indoor air laws in the nation. Once Governor Ruth Ann Minner signs the bill, as she said she will, the First State truly will be first in protecting its citizens from the deadly dangers of secondhand smoke. The bill is a triumph of sound public health policy over Big Tobacco's lobbying and scare tactics. Secondhand smoke is a killer – responsible nationally for at least 38,000 deaths each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And studies show that kids are especially vulnerable to other people's smoke, suffering more respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma. Yesterday's Senate victory is a remarkable legislative triumph that should serve as a model to other states.
Delaware's clean indoor air law will be one of the most comprehensive and effective in the nation, encompassing restaurants and bars as well as most other workplaces and indoor public spaces. Other states should follow this comprehensive approach to protecting their citizens from secondhand smoke and the harm it causes.
We applaud Delaware's leaders for doing the right thing to improve public health. Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals and 43 known carcinogens including formaldehyde, cyanide, arsenic, carbon monoxide, methane, benzene and radioactive polonium 210. Because some of the smoke from a burning cigarette is unfiltered, the levels of carcinogens can be up to 100 times higher than smoke inhaled directly through cigarettes. A 1997 study showed that secondhand smoke led to over 500,000 physician visits by kids for asthma that year nationally, and a 1994 study found that about 250,000 children a year suffer from lung and bronchial infections caused by secondhand smoke.
Delaware's clean indoor air law will be good for the economy and business. Despite the tobacco industry's false claims that this bill will hurt business, the facts show smoke-free laws do no harm, and can even improve business. In addition, such laws, where enacted, reduce healthcare costs attributable to treating illnesses caused by secondhand smoke. A 1994 federal study showed, for example, that a ban on smoking in public places would save $72 billion, lower insurance costs and increase job productivity.
We commend Delaware's leaders for standing up for kids and against Big Tobacco.