May. 22 2008
Washington, D.C. — A new study published today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscores the powerful momentum across the country to pass strong smoke-free workplace laws that protect all workers and the public from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. This study should spur every state and community to pass smoke-free laws that protect all workers from this entirely preventable health hazard, including restaurant, bar and casino workers who are especially at risk of exposure to high concentrations of secondhand smoke. Everyone has the right to breathe clean air, and no one should have to put their health at risk in order to earn a living or enjoy a night out.
Michigan and Pennsylvania have the most immediate opportunities to join the growing list of smoke-free states and communities. In Michigan, the state House should vote as soon as possible to concur with HB 4163, the comprehensive smoke-free legislation recently passed by a wide margin in the state Senate. In Pennsylvania, a legislative conference committee should approve legislation that rejects exemptions for bars and casinos and grants local governments the authority to enact their own, stronger smoke-free laws.
According to the CDC study, published in this week's issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), the number of states with strong smoke-free laws tripled and the number with no such laws was halved between 2005 and 2007. During the study period, 18 states strengthened smoke-free protections in private sector worksites, 18 states strengthened protections in restaurants, and 12 states strengthened protections in bars (there was some overlap in these states). No state weakened smoke-free protections.
Since the study period, several more states have enacted smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars. Today, 24 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have enacted such laws. 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. Once these laws are fully implemented, more than 53 percent of the U.S. population will live in jurisdictions with smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars.
Background on secondhand smoke
Smoke-free laws are an appropriate and necessary response to the overwhelming and growing evidence that secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard.
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 60 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.
The CDC study can be found at www.cdc.gov/mmwr.