Connecticut Sets Example For the Nation By Passing Statewide Bill Protecting Public’s Right to Breathe Smoke-Free Air

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

May. 7 2003

Washington, D.C. — Connecticut today joined the growing list of states and communities that have taken decisive action to protect the public's right to breathe clean air, free from the proven dangers of secondhand smoke. The Connecticut House overwhelmingly approved a strong, statewide smoke-free workplace law that, despite some minor exemptions, covers the vast majority of restaurants, bars and indoor workplaces in the state. The Senate approved the legislation last week and Governor John Rowland has indicated he will sign it into law. This is an historic victory for the health of the citizens of Connecticut. Connecticut's actions underscore the growing, bipartisan momentum across the country to protect the public's right to breathe clean air. Secondhand smoke isn't just annoying. It's a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease and other health hazards. All employees and customers in every state should be protected from these dangers.

Connecticut becomes the fourth state with a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free workplace law, joining New York, which passed its law earlier this year, Delaware, which passed its law last year, and California, which first passed its law in 1994 and became the first state to include bars in 1998. The Florida Legislature currently is writing legislation implementing the constitutional amendment approved by 71 percent of the state's voters in November requiring most indoor workplaces, including restaurants, to be smoke-free. Other jurisdictions that have recently enacted strong smoke-free policies include New York City (prior to New York State), Boston, Dallas and Albuquerque. The many other states and communities considering smoke-free laws should act quickly to protect the rights of their citizens to breathe clean air.

Connecticut legislators 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 as much as $72 billion, lower insurance costs, and increase job productivity.

 

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