Philadelphia Mayor Street Delivers Historic Win for Right to Breathe Clean Air

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

Sep. 14 2006

Washington, DC — Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street has delivered a historic victory for the right of Philadelphians to breathe clean air by signing legislation to make the vast majority of Philadelphia workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free. We applaud Mayor Street for recognizing the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke and for taking a critically important stand that will protect the health and well-being of Philadelphians today and for generations to come. Starting in January 2007, Philadelphia workers will no longer have to choose between a good job and good health. By signing this bill, Mayor Street has cemented his legacy as a champion of public health.

We congratulate the City Council members who voted in favor of this bill: Council Members Clarke, DiCicco, Goode, Kenney, Miller, Nutter, Ramos, Reynolds Brown and Tasco. In particular, we applaud former Councilman Michael Nutter for introducing this legislation and for his longstanding dedication to this critical public health measure, Councilman Frank DiCicco for his leadership in working to ensure the passage of this bill and Councilwoman Marian Tasco for introducing a smoke-free bill.

As the City Council considers amendments to the legislation, we urge them to resist efforts to weaken the bill. We look forward to working with the Council to make sure that the law works as intended to protect all workers and patrons from the proven health risks of secondhand smoke. We also urge the Pennsylvania state legislature to follow Philadelphia’s lead and act quickly to pass a strong statewide smoke-free law.

With this new law, Philadelphia joins the growing movement across the country and the world to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air. 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). Hundreds of cities and counties have also passed strong smoke-free laws.

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. 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 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.

It’s time for every state and community in the country to follow the lead of Philadelphia and protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.

 

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