New Hampshire’s Smoke-Free Law is Historic Step for Health

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Director, Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund

Jun. 19 2007

Washington, DC — Governor John Lynch and the Legislature have delivered a historic victory for health and the public’s right to breathe clean air by enacting a new law that will make all New Hampshire restaurants and bars smoke-free. We applaud Governor Lynch for signing this legislation into law today and the bill’s legislative champions for their long and tireless efforts in support of this important public health measure, which will take effect in 90 days.

New Hampshire is one of 22 states that have enacted smoke-free laws that cover restaurants and bars, joining all of its New England neighbors and a rapidly growing number of states, cities and even entire countries. Across America and around the world, there is strong agreement that all workers and the public should be protected from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. No one should have to risk their health in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out.

New Hampshire’s new law also underscores the strong public support for smoke-free laws. Last year, the state Senate defied public opinion and voted 12-11 to defeat smoke-free legislation. During last year’s elections, the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund launched an independent direct mail and voter contact campaign to educate New Hampshire voters about the clear contrast between the positions of candidates on the smoke-free legislation. New Hampshire voters delivered a loud and clear message by replacing three state senators who had opposed the smoke-free law with three senators who supported it. This year, the Senate passed the smoke-free bill by a 17-7 margin and the House followed suit on a 224-117 vote.

New Hampshire joins 21 other states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, that have passed smoke-free laws that cover restaurants and bars. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois (effective Jan 1, 2008, pending governor’s expected signature), Maine, Maryland (effective Feb 1, 2008), Massachusetts, Minnesota (effective Oct. 1, 2007), Montana (extends to bars Sept. 1, 2009), New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon (effective Jan. 1, 2009, pending governor’s expected signature), Rhode Island, Utah (extends to bars Jan. 7, 2009), Vermont and Washington. Four other states – Florida, Idaho, Louisiana and Nevada – have smoke-free laws that cover restaurants but exempt stand-alone bars. A growing number of countries have also passed nationwide smoke-free laws, including Bermuda, Bhutan, England (effective July 1, 2007), France (effective 2008), Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, Uruguay and Wales.

The need for protection from secondhand smoke in all workplaces and public places has never been clearer. In issuing a groundbreaking report on secondhand smoke in June 2006, 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.” Secondhand smoke contains more than 4000 chemicals, including at least 69 carcinogens. 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, there is no safe level of exposure, and only smoke-free laws provide effective protection from secondhand smoke.

The evidence is also clear that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. As the U.S. Surgeon General concluded, “Evidence from peer-reviewed studies shows that smoke-free policies and regulations do not have an adverse impact on the hospitality industry.”

 

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