May. 21 2003
Washington, D.C. — With overwhelming approval from voters on Tuesday, Pueblo, Colorado, has joined a 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. Fifty-nine percent of Pueblo voters upheld an ordinance passed by the City Council last year that requires almost all indoor public spaces and work places to be smoke-free. The ordinance had been on hold pending the vote. Secondhand smoke isn't just annoying. It's a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease and other health hazards. We urge elected leaders in Denver and other communities in Colorado and across the country to follow suit and approve smoke-free workplace measures. All employees and customers in Colorado and every state should be protected from these dangers.
There are now four states that have a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free workplace law. Connecticut and New York passed laws earlier this year, Delaware passed its law last year, and California 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, Bloomington 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.
Pueblo citizens 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.