Nov. 6 2002
Washington, D.C. — Florida voters on Tuesday demonstrated that the public strongly supports the right to breathe clean air by overwhelmingly approving Amendment 6 to prohibit smoking in restaurants and other indoor workplaces. Now it is incumbent upon Governor Jeb Bush and the Legislature to follow the will of the voters and enact effective legislation to implement this Constitutional amendment. Advocates of secondhand smoke protections were forced to go to the voters because the state's elected officials paid more attention to the special interests of the tobacco industry and refused to act. Tuesday the voters made clear that they want their elected officials to protect their health, not the tobacco industry.
The margin of victory, 71 percent in favor versus 29 percent against, is a triumph of sound public health policy. Approval of Amendment 6 is truly historic, making Florida the first state in the nation to have a voter-approved smoke-free air law (Delaware and California have statewide smoke-free air laws that have been approved by lawmakers). Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard and studies show that kids are especially vulnerable to other people's smoke, suffering more respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma. Yesterday's victory is a remarkable triumph that will serve as a model to other states.
Florida voters have done the right thing to improve public health. Each week 5 million Floridians, including 1 million workers, are exposed to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and other illnesses and is responsible nationally for thousands of deaths each year. Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals and 69 known carcinogens including formaldehyde, cyanide, arsenic, carbon monoxide, methane, benzene, and radioactive polonium 210.
Florida's smoke-free air law will be good for the economy and business. Despite the tobacco industry's false claims that this initiative will hurt business, the facts show smoke-free laws do no harm, and can even improve business. In addition, such laws, where enacted, reduce health care 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 Florida's voters for standing up for their right to breathe clean air.