Jul. 26 2006
Washington, DC — Demonstrating that even communities with longstanding ties to tobacco are joining the movement to protect the public’s right to breathe clean, smoke-free air, the Frankfort, Kentucky, City Commission on Monday approved legislation that requires all workplaces and public places, including restaurants and bars, to be smoke-free. It is a truly historic step for the capital of a leading tobacco-growing state to recognize the serious health risks of secondhand smoke and take decisive action to protect public health. We applaud Mayor William May, Jr., and the Commission members who supported this legislation for their leadership and foresight. Frankfort joins Lexington and several other Kentucky communities (Morehead, Letcher County and Georgetown) that have passed strong smoke-free laws. Their actions should spur other tobacco-growing states and communities – indeed all states and communities – to pass strong smoke-free laws and protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.
Even in tobacco country, public officials can no longer ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence, confirmed by the recent Surgeon General’s report, that secondhand smoke causes serious diseases and premature death. All of us should be able to earn a living or enjoy a night out without being exposed to these risks. In issuing his groundbreaking report on secondhand smoke on June 27, U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona stated, “The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard.” The Surgeon General found that secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, serious respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. The Surgeon General also found that secondhand smoke is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year and that there is no risk-free level of exposure.
The Surgeon General’s report also reached another clear and unambiguous conclusion: Smoke-free workplace policies are the only effective way to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke. Other approaches, such as air ventilation systems and smoking and non-smoking sections, are not effective and do not eliminate exposure. The report eliminates any excuses for failing to enact comprehensive smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces and public places.
The Surgeon General’s report also confirmed 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.
In the U.S., 14 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico have now passed smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars. The states are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii (effective Nov. 16), Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington (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 have also passed strong smoke-free laws.
At least 11 countries have enacted nationwide smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars. They are Bermuda, Bhutan, England (effective 2007), Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Northern Ireland (effective 2007), Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and Uruguay.