Mar. 2 2006
Washington, DC — Across the United States and around the world, there is growing momentum to protect the public’s right to breathe clean air, free from the proven dangers of secondhand smoke. Just this week, Puerto Rico, Utah and Uruguay have enacted or implemented strong smoke-free workplace laws that include restaurants and bars. Today in Puerto Rico, Governor Anibal Acevedo Vila signed one of the strongest smoke-free workplace laws in the United States. On Wednesday, the Utah Legislature approved legislation extending that state’s already strong smoke-free law to bars and private clubs. Also on Wednesday, Uruguay implemented the strongest smoke-free law in Latin America, covering indoor workplaces and public places including restaurants and bars.
These actions are driven by the strong public support for smoke-free environments and the overwhelming evidence that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. Secondhand smoke isn’t just annoying, but a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease and other serious health hazards. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is responsible for more than 38,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. It kills many more worldwide. All of us should be protected from these dangers in our workplaces and public places. No one should have to choose between a good job and good health.
In the United States, twelve states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico have now enacted smoke-free workplace laws that include restaurants and bars. These states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington (the Montana and Utah laws extend to bars in 2009, while the DC law does so on January 2, 2007). Two other states - Florida and Idaho - have smoke-free laws that exempt only stand-alone bars. Hundreds of cities and counties across the country have also taken action, as have whole countries including Ireland, England, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Italy and now Uruguay.
The evidence is 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.
It’s time for every state and community in the country to protect the public’s right to breathe clean air.