Maryland Legislature Can Set Example for the Nation by Protecting the Public’s Right to Breathe Smoke-Free Air

Statement of William V. Corr Executive Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Mar. 12 2003

Washington, D.C. — We urge the Maryland House Health and Government Operations Committee to quickly approve Del. Barbara Frush's proposed smoke-free workplace law, HB 771. Eighty percent of Maryland citizens do not smoke, and the Legislature should act decisively to protect their right to breathe clean, smoke-free air. This measure will save lives by reducing the exposure of workers and customers to the poisons in secondhand smoke. As a result, Marylanders will be able to earn a living and enjoy a meal with friends without being exposed to this serious health hazard.

Nationwide, there is growing public demand for protection from secondhand smoke. Dallas, New York City and Boston approved smoke-free policies in recent months. In November's election, 71 percent of Florida voters supported a ban on smoking in restaurants and other indoor workplaces. Last May, 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. States and cities that are currently considering such measures should quickly follow the lead of Dallas, New York and Boston and protect the rights of their citizens to breathe clean air.

There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that exposure to secondhand smoke causes disease, disability and death. 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. The study found that 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.

Evidence on the benefits of smoke-free policies was shown last week in a study measuring the effects of Delaware's new smoke-free law, which is similar to HB771. The study, by Repace Associates, measured pollutants in several public venues before and after the state's new law took effect and showed that Delaware's new smoke-free indoor workplace law dramatically reduced exposure to air pollutants known to increase risk of cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease and stroke.

Smoke-free air laws are also 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 urge Maryland's leaders to act now to protect the rights of their citizens to breathe clean, smoke-free air. The evidence is clear that such policies improve health and save lives.

 

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