Nation's Capital Takes Historic Step for Health By Going Smoke-Free

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

May. 1 2007

Washington,DC — The Nation’s Capital will take a historic step for health at midnight tonight when it fully implements the new smoke-free workplace law and protects everyone’s right to breathe clean air. By joining the growing number of cities, states and countries with strong smoke-free laws, Washington, DC will ensure that all workers and the public are protected from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. Everyone in the Nation’s Capital will now be able to earn a living or enjoy a night out without being exposed to toxic secondhand smoke. Mayor-elect Adrian Fenty and the D.C. Councilmembers who supported this legislation will leave a legacy of improved health for Washingtonians for generations to come.

This public health victory would not have been possible without the foresight and leadership of Mayor-elect Fenty and the D.C. Councilmembers who championed this legislation. As a Councilmember, Mayor-elect Fenty, along with Kathy Patterson and Phil Mendelson, co-sponsored the original smoke-free legislation and worked tirelessly for three years to pass a strong smoke-free law. As Chairman of the Health Committee, Councilmember David Catania also provided critical leadership by moving a strong smoke-free bill through his committee, leading to overwhelming approval by the D.C. Council in January 2006.

We are committed to working with Mayor Fenty, the new D.C. Council and the public health community to educate businesses, residents and visitors about the new smoke-free law and to ensure that the law is implemented as intended to protect everyone from the proven health harms of secondhand smoke.

The facts are clear that businesses have nothing to fear from the smoke-free law. There is overwhelming evidence from smoke-free states and cities around the country that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. As the U.S. Surgeon General concluded in his June 2006 report on secondhand smoke, “Evidence from peer-reviewed studies shows that smoke-free policies and regulations do not have an adverse impact on the hospitality industry.”

The need for protection from secondhand smoke in ALL workplaces and public places has never been clearer. In issuing his groundbreaking report, 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 that causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults.” 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.

Washington, D.C. joins Puerto Rico and 16 states that have passed smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington. Three other states – Florida, Idaho and Nevada – have smoke-free laws that exempt only stand-alone bars. Hundreds of cities and entire countries have also taken action, including Ireland, Italy, England (effective 2007), France (effective 2008), Scotland, Bermuda, Bhutan, New Zealand, Northern Ireland (effective 2007), Norway, Sweden and Uruguay.

 

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