May. 3 2006
Washington, DC — Hawaii legislators last night delivered a major victory for the public’s right to breathe clean air by approving final legislation to make Hawaii workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free. Governor Linda Lingle has indicated support for the legislation. Hawaii is the 14th state to pass a smoke-free workplace law that includes restaurants and bars, adding to the growing momentum across the country and around the world to protect all workers and customers from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. Starting on November 16, 2006, Hawaii workers will no longer have to choose between a good job and good health. We congratulate the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii and the legislators who have championed this legislation.
Hawaii becomes the 14th state to pass a statewide smoke-free law that includes restaurants and bars, joining California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington, as well as Washington, DC and Puerto Rico (the Montana and Utah laws extend to bars in 2009, while the DC law does so on January 1, 2007). Two other states - Florida and Idaho - have smoke-free laws that exempt only stand-alone bars. Hundreds of cities and counties across the United States have also taken action, as have whole countries including Ireland, England (effective 2007), Scotland, Uruguay, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Italy, Bhutan and Bermuda.
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 scientific evidence that even short-term exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger harmful cardiovascular changes that increase the risk of heart attacks, the CDC has advised persons with heart disease to avoid indoor settings where smoking is allowed. Children are especially vulnerable to other people’s smoke, suffering more bronchitis, asthma and ear infections as a result.
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.
It's time for leaders in every state and community to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air.