Idaho Sets Example for the Nation by Passing Statewide Smoke-Free Workplace Bill

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

Mar. 18 2004

Washington, DC — Idaho has 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 Idaho House on Wednesday voted 44-26 to approve a strong, statewide smoke-free air law that covers most workplaces, including restaurants, with the exception of bars and bowling alleys. The Idaho Senate passed the bill, 22-13, in February. We urge Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to quickly sign this legislation into law. It will save lives and improve health by significantly reducing the exposure of workers and customers to the toxic chemicals in secondhand smoke.

Idaho’s actions underscore the growing, bipartisan momentum across the country to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean, smoke-free air. Five states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine and New York – have enacted statewide smoke-free workplace laws that cover restaurants and bars. Massachusetts is on the verge of doing so. Idaho would become the third state, after Florida and Utah, to have a statewide smoke-free law that covers restaurants. A growing number of cities and counties across the country have enacted strong laws as well.

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. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including 69 known carcinogens such as formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, benzene, and radioactive polonium 210. A 2002 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. 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.

It is also clear that smoke-free laws do not 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. 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. In New York City, official employment, tax and tourism data all indicate the hospitality industry has been stronger since the city’s smoke-free law took effect March 30, 2003. Smoke-free laws are good for health and good for business and should be enacted in every state and every community.

 

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