Feb. 22 2008
Washington, D.C. — The Nebraska Legislature has delivered a historic victory for health and the public’s right to breathe clean air by passing legislation to make all workplaces, including restaurants, bars and gaming facilities, smoke-free. We urge Governor Dave Heineman to sign into law this important legislation, which was approved by a veto-proof margin. Nebraska would become the 23rd state to pass a strong smoke-free law that includes restaurants and bars. The law would take effect June 1, 2009. The Nebraska legislation adds to the growing momentum across the country and around the world to protect all workers and the public from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. No one should have to put their health at risk in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out.
We congratulate the legislators, organizations and businesses that have championed this critical public health measure, including the Partnership for Smokefree Nebraska, the Nebraska Restaurant Association and Big Red Keno.
Nebraska joins 22 other states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico in passing smoke-free legislation that covers restaurants and bars. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon (effective Jan. 1, 2009), Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington (the Montana and Utah laws extend to bars in 2009). A growing number of countries have also passed nationwide smoke-free laws, including Bermuda, Bhutan, France, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Uruguay.
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 4,000 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 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.”
It’s time for every state and community to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.