Dec. 11 2002
Washington, D.C. — In historic victories for the public's health, leaders of two of our nation's largest cities – Boston and New York – today have acted decisively to protect the public's right to breathe clean, smoke-free air. In Boston, the Public Health Commission today unanimously approved a comprehensive ban on smoking in all public indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars. Boston joins 69 other Massachusetts cities and towns that have enacted such protections. In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council agreed on legislation to enact a similarly sweeping smoke-free law, with only minor exceptions to the bold proposal Mayor Bloomberg made earlier this year. The City Council is expected to enact the legislation into law shortly. These measures will improve health and save lives by reducing the exposure of all workers and customers to the poisons in secondhand smoke. As a result, millions more Americans will be able to earn a living, enjoy a meal and share a drink with friends without being exposed to this serious health hazard.
The New York and Boston actions reflect the strong public support for the right to breathe clean air and growing public demand for protection from secondhand smoke. In November's election, 71 percent of Florida voters supported a ban on smoking in restaurants and other indoor workplaces. Earlier this year, Delaware became the second state after California to enact comprehensive protections, and numerous cities, towns and counties across the United States have done so as well. Cities that are currently considering such measures, including Chicago, Dallas and Albuquerque, should quickly follow the lead of New York and Boston and protect the rights of their citizens to breathe clean air.
City leaders did the right thing to improve public health. Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals and 69 known carcinogens including formaldehyde, cyanide, arsenic, carbon monoxide, methane, benzene, and radioactive polonium 210. A recent study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization concluded, "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. In addition to lung cancer, secondhand smoke is proven to cause heart disease, emphysema, and other illnesses and is responsible nationally for thousands of deaths each year. Studies show that kids are especially vulnerable to other people's smoke, suffering more respiratory problems, ear infections, and asthma.
Smoke-free air laws are good for the economy and business. Despite the tobacco industry's false claims that these measures can hurt business, the facts show that smoke-free laws do no harm, and can even improve 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 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 Boston and New York's leaders for standing up for people's right to breathe clean air. We especially commend New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino for their leadership on this issue.