Dec. 31 2009
Washington, D.C. — North Carolina on January 2 will take an historic step for health when it becomes the first major tobacco-growing state to implement a statewide smoke-free law that includes all restaurants and bars. This new law will protect the right of North Carolinians to breathe clean air. North Carolina's hospitality workers can now earn a living and the public can enjoy a night out without putting themselves at risk of lung cancer, heart disease and the other serious illnesses caused by secondhand smoke. North Carolina is setting a powerful example for other tobacco-growing states and communities, indeed for the entire nation, by taking strong action to address the devastating toll of tobacco use and secondhand smoke.
We applaud the North Carolina leaders who have championed the new law, including Governor Bev Perdue, bill sponsors Representative Hugh Holliman and Senator Bill Purcell, and the North Carolina Alliance for Health. Their legacy will be better health for North Carolinians for generations to come.
The North Carolina law adds to the growing momentum across the country and around the world to protect everyone's right to breathe smoke-freeair. Once all enacted 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
In total, 27 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have enacted smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan (effective May 1, 2010), Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, 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.