May. 9 2008
Washington, D.C. — As a conference committee prepares to meet Monday on smoke-free workplace legislation in Pennsylvania, we urge the committee members, the Legislature and Governor Ed Rendell to enact a strong smoke-free law that covers all workplaces and public places and protects all Pennsylvanians from the deadly dangers of secondhand smoke. It is also critical that the conference committee reject pre-emptive language that would prohibit local governments from enacting stronger smoke-free laws.
The conference committee should approve legislation that protects all workers and covers all workplaces and public places, including restaurants, bars and casinos. Any exemptions would send an unacceptable message that some workers' health and lives are less worthy of protection than others. Exemptions would create two classes of workers in Pennsylvania - those who have a healthy workplace free of secondhand smoke and those who do not and are put at higher risk of lung cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses. Workers in bars and casinos have the same right to breathe clean, smoke-free air as those who work in offices. No Pennsylvanians should have to put their health at risk so they can earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out. A poll last year found that 84 percent of Pennsylvania voters agree that all workers should be protected from secondhand smoke.
It is disappointing that, according to news reports, the conference committee is considering legislation that would exempt casinos and many bars and pre-empt local governments from enacting stronger laws. Should such legislation be approved, we would strongly urge Governor Rendell to veto it. Pennsylvania leaders should enact a comprehensive smoke-free law that applies to all workplaces and public places, protects all workers and the public, and preserves the right of local governments to take action.
Background on Secondhand Smoke:
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."
Twenty-four states, including most of Pennsylvania's neighbors, and Washington, DC, have enacted strong smoke-free workplace laws that include restaurants and bars. The states are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington. It is time for Pennsylvania to join the growing number of states that protect everyone's right to breathe clean air.