Jun. 2 2008
Washington, D.C. — As a legislative conference committee prepares to meet Tuesday on smoke-free workplace legislation, a coalition of public health organizations is launching a newspaper advertising campaign urging the Pennsylvania Legislature to give all local communities the right to pass smoke-free laws that protect their citizens from harmful secondhand smoke.
The newspaper ad, which will appear Tuesday and Wednesday in The Harrisburg Patriot-News, states, "If the Pennsylvania Legislature won't protect all Pennsylvanians from secondhand smoke...Let our communities do it." The advertisement further states, "It's time to stop the delay and pass a smoke-free law that allows all Pennsylvania communities to protect our right to breathe clean air." View the ad.
News reports indicate that the conference committee is considering smoke-free legislation that would exempt many bars and all casinos, prohibit (pre-empt) local governments from enacting stronger laws and overturn Philadelphia's current strong smoke-free law. A similar proposal last month drew a veto threat from Governor Ed Rendell.
If the Legislature won't pass a statewide smoke-free law that covers all workplaces and protects all workers, health advocates want lawmakers to grant all Pennsylvania communities the right to enact such laws. Currently, only Philadelphia is allowed to do so.
"All Pennsylvanians deserve the right to breathe clean, smoke-free air. If the Legislature won't pass a statewide law that covers all workplaces and protects all Pennsylvanians, then it's time to let all local communities protect the health of their citizens," said Peter Fisher, Vice President of State Issues for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "It's critical that the Legislature grant all communities the right to take action and that it not restrict the time or authority local communities have to act. Unless the Legislature is willing to approve a statewide law free of exemptions, this is the only way to ensure that all Pennsylvanians are eventually protected."
Pennsylvanians strongly support a comprehensive smoke-free law. In a May 2007 poll, 84 percent of Pennsylvania voters agreed that all workers should be protected from secondhand smoke. In addition, 86 percent of voters said restaurants and bars would be healthier for customers and employees if they were smoke-free. The Pennsylvania Restaurant Association has also endorsed a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free workplace law, as have numerous newspaper editorials across the state.
Facts about Secondhand Smoke:
In issuing a landmark report on secondhand smoke in June 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General 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 known to cause cancer. According to the Surgeon General, secondhand smoke is proven to cause lung cancer, heart disease, serious respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. It is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year. The Surgeon General also found that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke; the only way to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is with comprehensive smoke-free workplaces and public places; and smoke-free laws do not hurt business.
Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., have passed smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars, and in many cases casinos as well. These states include almost all of Pennsylvania's neighbors.