Louisville, Kentucky, Takes Historic Stand for Right to Breathe Smoke-Free Air

Statement of Amy Barkley, Tobacco States DirectorCampaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Oct. 13 2006

Washington, DC — The Louisville Metro Council, with the strong support of Mayor Jerry Abramson, has taken a historic stand for the public’s right to breathe clean air by approving a comprehensive smoke-free workplace ordinance that includes restaurants and bars. It is a truly groundbreaking step for the largest city in a leading tobacco-growing state to recognize the serious health risks of secondhand smoke and take decisive action to protect public health. The Louisville leaders who supported the ordinance will leave a legacy of improved health for Louisville residents, workers and visitors for generations to come. Their actions should spur other communities in Kentucky and other tobacco-growing states - indeed states and communities across the United States - to pass strong smoke-free laws and protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.

We applaud the leadership and foresight of Councilman Ken Fleming, the sponsor of the smoke-free bill, and the Metro Council members who championed this legislation and successfully fought back weakening amendments. We also congratulate Smoke-free Louisville for their tireless dedication to protecting the health of all Louisville workers and families. Louisville joins Frankfort, Lexington and several other Kentucky communities (Morehead, Letcher County and Georgetown) that have passed strong smoke-free laws.

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 U.S. each year; there is no safe level of exposure; only smoke-free policies provide effective protection; and smoke-free laws protect health without harming business (the latter conclusion is supported by dozens of scientific studies and the experience of the growing number of smoke-free countries, states and cities).

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.

A growing number of countries have also taken action. The latest example is France, which this week announced plans to phase in smoke-free regulations that will extend to restaurants and bars on January 1, 2008. France will join a growing number of countries that have implemented or enacted smoke-free laws, including Ireland, Italy, England (effective 2007), Scotland, Bermuda, Bhutan, New Zealand, Northern Ireland (effective 2007), Norway, Sweden and Uruguay.

It’s time to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.

 

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