Jan. 9 2006
Washington, DC — The smoke-free workplace legislation overwhelmingly approved today by the New Jersey Assembly is a historic victory for public health and the public’s right to breathe clean air. The state Senate has already passed the bill, and Acting Governor Richard Codey has championed the legislation and said he will sign it into law. The law will take effect 90 days after the bill is signed. While we are disappointed that the bill exempts casino gambling floors, New Jersey will still be the tenth state to enact a smoke-free workplace law that includes restaurants and bars. New Jersey’s action underscores the growing momentum across the country for smoke-free laws that protect workers and customers from the serious hazards of secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke isn’t just annoying, but a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease and other serious health hazards. No one should have to choose between a good job and good health. It is time for every state and community in the country to protect the public’s right to breathe clean air.
We applaud Governor Codey, Governor-elect Jon Corzine and the legislators who have championed this legislation for their leadership in addressing this critical public health issue. We also congratulate New Jersey Breathes for their extraordinary and tireless efforts in advocating for the health of New Jersey residents and workers.
New Jersey becomes the tenth state to pass a statewide smoke-free workplace law that includes restaurants and bars, joining California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Once the New Jersey law takes effect, workplaces will be smoke-free in most of the northeastern United States, from Delaware to Maine. New Hampshire should quickly join its neighbors in passing such a law, as should other states across the country. The District of Columbia Council passed legislation last week to make the Nation’s Capital smoke-free, and Mayor Anthony Williams should sign it into law. Four other states – Florida, Idaho, Utah and Montana – have passed statewide smoke-free laws that exempt only stand-alone bars (Montana’s law will extend to bars in 2009). Hundreds of cities and counties across the country have also taken action, as have whole countries including Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden and Italy.
Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals and at least 69 known carcinogens and is scientifically proven to cause lung cancer, heart disease and other serious diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is responsible for at least 38,000 deaths nationwide each year. Because of the risk that even short-term exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger heart attacks, the CDC has advised persons with heart disease to avoid settings where smoking is allowed. Children are especially vulnerable to other people’s smoke, suffering more bronchitis, asthma and ear infections as a result. Evidence of the many health harms from secondhand smoke is growing all the time. Recent studies have found that a pregnant woman’s exposure to secondhand smoke can be just as harmful to her fetus as if the woman herself was a smoker and that exposure to secondhand smoke has a negative impact on children’s performance on tests measuring reading, math and reasoning skills.
The evidence is also clear that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. Dozens of studies and hard economic data have shown that smoke-free laws do not harm sales or employment in restaurants and bars and sometimes have a positive impact. Some of the strongest evidence comes from New York City, where a report found that, in the year after the city’s comprehensive smoke-free law took effect March 30, 2003, business receipts for restaurants and bars increased, employment rose, the number of liquor licenses increased, virtually all establishments are complying with the law, and the vast majority of New Yorkers support the law. There is also growing evidence that smoke-free laws can save money. A study released in August 2005 by the Society of Actuaries found that secondhand smoke costs our country $10 billion a year in health care bills, lost wages and other costs.