North Carolina Legislature Takes Historic Stand for Smoke-Free Air

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

May. 13 2009

Washington, D.C. — The North Carolina Legislature today delivered a historic victory for health and the public's right to breathe clean air by approving legislation to make all restaurants and bars smoke-free. Gov. Bev Perdue has indicated support for such legislation, which would make North Carolina the first major tobacco-growing state to make all restaurants and bars smoke-free. It is a truly groundbreaking step for a tobacco-growing state like North Carolina to recognize the devastating toll of tobacco use and secondhand smoke and take decisive action to protect public health.

We applaud the North Carolina legislators who championed this legislation, including bill sponsors Representative Hugh Holliman and Senator Bill Purcell, as well as the North Carolina Alliance for Health. We also applaud Gov. Perdue for her longtime leadership in working to reduce tobacco use and the harm it causes to North Carolina's children and health. The smoke-free law would take effect Jan. 2, 2010.

North Carolina would become the 26th state to pass a strong smoke-free law that includes restaurants and bars. The North Carolina 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.

North Carolina joins 25 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, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana (extends to bars Oct. 1, 2009), Nebraska (June 1, 2009), New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Washington. 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."

 

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