Nov. 21 2003
Washington, DC — Massachusetts is on the verge of becoming the sixth state to enact a comprehensive, smoke-free workplace law now that both houses of the Legislature have passed almost identical legislation. The House and Senate, which approved legislation 29-10 late Wednesday, are expected to work out minor differences by January. Now is the time for Governor Mitt Romney to get off the fence and provide leadership that brings about quick enactment of this historic law. We call on Governor Romney to take a stand and protect the public’s right to breathe clean air, free from the proven dangers of secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke isn’t just annoying; it’s a scientifically proven cause of serious health problems, including lung cancer, heart disease and chronic lung ailments such as bronchitis and asthma. Everyone should be able to earn a living and enjoy dinner or a drink without putting their health at risk.
The overwhelming votes in the Massachusetts Legislature underscore the growing bipartisan momentum across the country to protect the public’s right to breathe clean air. Five states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine and New York – have now enacted comprehensive, statewide smoke-free laws. In Florida, all workplaces, with the exception of some stand-alone bars, are now smoke-free as a result of a constitutional amendment approved by 71 percent of voters last year. Other jurisdictions that have recently enacted strong smoke-free policies include New York City (prior to the New York state law), Boston, Dallas, Albuquerque, Bloomington, IN, Pueblo, CO, Lexington, KY, and Montgomery County, MD.
Smoke-free is good for health. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including 69 known carcinogens such as formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, benzene, and radioactive polonium 210. A study issued last year 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. Studies have shown that secondhand smoke is responsible nationally for thousands of deaths each year. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are especially vulnerable, suffering more asthma, bronchitis, ear infections and other ailments.
Smoke-free laws don’t hurt business. Contrary to opponents’ claims that smoke-free laws hurt business, numerous economic studies have consistently shown that such laws do not harm sales or employment in restaurants and bars and may even have a positive impact. For example, in California, which in 1998 became the first state to include bars in a smoke-free law, restaurant and bar sales grew at a faster rate after the law took effect, while employment continued to grow at about the same rate. Early economic data in New York City, which went smoke-free in March, show jobs being added in the hospitality industry and tourism increasing since the law took effect. Last month, the popular tour guide publisher Zagat concluded New York’s smoke-free policy is actually giving the city’s restaurants “a major lift” in business. Polls in smoke-free states and communities show the public strongly supports these laws and many more people say they are more likely to patronize smoke-free venues than say they will stay away. Smoke-free laws are good for health and good for business and should be enacted in Massachusetts and every state.