Approval of Wisconsin Smoke-Free Legislation Is Historic Win for Health

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

May. 14 2009

Washington, D.C. — The Wisconsin Legislature has delivered a historic victory for health and the public's right to breathe clean air by passing legislation to make almost all workplaces, including all restaurants and bars, smoke-free. Gov. Jim Doyle has advocated for smoke-free legislation and is expected to sign the bill, which would make Wisconsin the 27th state to pass a strong smoke-free law that includes all restaurants and bars.

We applaud the leadership and persistence of the many individuals and organizations who have championed this legislation. While this legislation contains some problematic provisions, it is nevertheless a huge step forward for Wisconsin that will protect workers and the public from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke.

The Wisconsin legislation adds to the growing momentum across the country and around the world to protect everyone's right to breathe smoke-free air. The Wisconsin Legislature voted just hours after lawmakers in North Carolina approved similar legislation, which will make it the first major tobacco-growing state to prohibit smoking in all restaurants and bars. With the addition of Wisconsin and North Carolina, nearly 59 percent of Americans will be protected by strong smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars. No one should have to put their health at risk in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out.

Wisconsin joins 26 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, North Carolina (Jan. 2, 2010), Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota (July 1, 2009), 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."

It's time for every state and community to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air.

 

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