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

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

Dec. 10 2009

Washington, D.C. — The Michigan Legislature today 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. Jennifer Granholm has said she will sign the bill, which will make Michigan the 27th state to pass a strong smoke-free law that includes all restaurants and bars. This legislation is a huge step forward for Michigan's health that will protect workers and the public from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke.

We applaud the leadership and persistence of the many individuals and organizations that have fought the long battle to make Michigan smoke-free. It is a fitting tribute that the bill is named after the late Ron Davis, M.D., a tobacco control leader nationally and in Michigan and past president of the American Medical Association. It is, however, disappointing that the legislation includes an exemption for the gaming floors of existing casinos. Casino workers deserve the same protection from secondhand smoke as other workers. No one should have to put their health at risk in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out.

The Michigan legislation, which takes effect May 1, 2010, adds to the growing momentum across the country and around the world to protect everyone's right to breathe smoke-free air. Once the Michigan law and all other state and local laws have been implemented, 62 percent of Americans will be protected by strong smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars.

Smoke-Free States and Countries

Michigan joins 26 other states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico in enacting smoke-free laws that cover restaurants and bars. The other states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina (effective Jan. 2, 2010), Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin (effective July 5, 2010). South Dakota has also enacted such a law, but it is on hold pending a voter referendum in November 2010.

A growing number of countries have also passed strong smoke-free laws, including Bhutan, Chad, Colombia, Djibouti, Guatemala, Guinea, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Lithuania, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Turkey, Tuvalu, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and Zambia. All Canadian provinces/territories and Australian states/territories have also enacted such laws.

Background on Secondhand Smoke and Smoke-Free Laws

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. A report released earlier this year by the Institute of Medicine concluded that secondhand smoke causes heart attacks while smoke-free laws prevent them.

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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