Virginia Leaders Should Reject Flawed Smoke-Free Legislation That Fails to Protect Everyone's Right to Breathe Clean Air

Statement of Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Feb. 9 2009

Washington, D.C. — The smoke-free restaurant legislation announced today in Virginia fails to protect all workers and the public from the proven dangers of secondhand smoke. We strongly urge the Virginia House and Senate to reject this bill and instead enact a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free law that protects every Virginian's right to breathe clean, smoke-free air.

This legislation would halt the significant progress and momentum in Virginia toward enacting a smoke-free law that truly protects all workers and the public. It includes exemptions that would continue to expose workers and patrons to secondhand smoke and put their health at risk, including exemptions for private clubs, smoking rooms in restaurants and weak enforcement provisions. It would continue to deny local governments the right to protect the health of their citizens by enacting stronger smoke-free laws. And it runs counter to the views of Virginia voters, three-fourths of whom support a statewide law that makes all workplaces, including restaurants, completely smoke-free.

Legislators should listen to Virginia voters and approve legislation that applies to ALL workplaces and protects the health of ALL workers and the public. In a January 2009 poll, 75 percent of Virginia voters said they support a statewide law that makes all restaurants completely smoke-free. And 80 percent of voters agreed that the right of customers and employees to breathe clean air trumps the right of smokers to smoke in restaurants, bars and other workplaces.

At a time when a growing number of communities, states and even entire countries are enacting comprehensive smoke-free laws that cover all workplaces, Virginia leaders should heed the call to do the same. If state lawmakers will not pass a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free law, they should — at a minimum — vote to give local communities the right to pass their own laws to protect their residents from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

It's time for Virginia to join the growing number of states and communities that have taken action to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air.

Facts about Secondhand Smoke and Smoke-Free Laws

  • Twenty-four states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico — as well as hundreds of cities and towns — have passed smoke-free laws that cover 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.
  • 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, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome.
  • The evidence is 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."

 

Media Contacts