Jun. 24 2002
Washington, DC — In the wake of powerful new evidence that secondhand smoke is a killer, the Delaware Legislature should continue to put the health of kids and families first and reject efforts to weaken the state's new clean indoor air law before it even takes effect. It's incomprehensible that Delaware's leaders would seek to weaken the new law given the conclusions of a new international study released last week that concluded secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer. According to the new study, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization, "Nonsmokers are exposed to the same carcinogens as active smokers. Even the typical levels of passive exposure have been shown to cause lung cancer" among people who have never smoked.
Delaware's residents deserve protection from this proven killer in all public indoor places, not just some. The evidence is clear from numerous studies and the experience of other states and communities that businesses will not be hurt by a strong, comprehensive clean indoor air law. The only losers are the tobacco companies because smokers will smoke less and be more likely to quit. Surely Delaware's leaders will choose to protect the state's kids and families and not the tobacco industry. They should reject the proposed bill (House Bill 560) to weaken the new law and protect their citizens from having to breathe a proven cause of lung cancer.
Secondhand smoke is responsible nationally for at least 38,000 deaths each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and polls show a strong majority of Delawareans support the state's new law. 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 poll conducted earlier this year showed the vast majority of voters in Delaware support a strong clean indoor air law in the state. Even a recent poll commissioned by casino owners in the state showed a solid majority, 58 percent, support the new law.
The Delaware Legislature should also reject efforts to delay implementation of the new clean air law, as proposed in House Bill 599. This is a cynical ploy by tobacco lobbyists to circumvent the will of the vast majority of Delawareans and their legislators who voted for the new law. In these difficult budget times, why should Delaware spend scarce taxpayer resources to further study the economic effects of clean indoor air laws when there is already extensive research showing such laws are good for the economy and business? One comprehensive study of restaurant sales tax data from 81 localities in six states found consistently that ordinances restricting smoking in restaurants had no effect on revenues. In addition, such laws, where enacted, reduce healthcare costs attributable to treating illnesses caused by secondhand smoke. A 1994 federal study, for example, showed that a ban on smoking in public places would save $72 billion, reduce insurance costs and increase job productivity. Claims by the tobacco industry that clean indoor air laws are bad for business represent yet another effort by Big Tobacco to deceive the public and their elected leaders, as they did when they denied under oath that cigarettes are addictive and cause cancer and as they continue to do in denying that secondhand smoke causes disease. The only business harmed by clean indoor air laws is the business of the tobacco industry.