Apr. 21 2011
WASHINGTON, DC — A new report published today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention underscores the strong momentum across the country to pass smoke-free workplace laws that protect all workers and the public from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. The CDC report finds that in the past 10 years, 25 states and the District of Columbia have enacted smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces, restaurants and bars. It projects that, at the current rate of progress, the entire nation could be protected by such laws by 2020 or sooner.
However, continued progress is by no means inevitable, especially as the tobacco industry and its political allies this year have stepped up their efforts to defeat smoke-free legislation and weaken or repeal existing laws. It is imperative that elected officials in every state side with the public interest over tobacco interests by enacting strong smoke-free laws and defending them from attack. As the U.S. Surgeon General and numerous scientific studies have found, smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. In addition, polls and ballot initiatives repeatedly have shown that the public strongly supports smoke-free laws that apply to all workplaces and public places and protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air. Every state should enact such a law.
Texas — one of only seven states that have no statewide smoking restrictions of any kind — has the most immediate opportunity to join the growing list of smoke-free states. Committees in both the state House and Senate have approved comprehensive smoke-free legislation, and both chambers should move quickly to schedule floor votes. A recent poll found that 70 percent of Texas voters back such a law, with strong support from Republicans, Democrats, Independents and supporters of the tea party movement.
The CDC report also comes as the tobacco industry and allies are pushing legislation to weaken or repeal smoke-free laws in several states, including Illinois, North Carolina, Washington and Wisconsin. These efforts are premised on the discredited argument that smoke-free laws hurt business. Bars and restaurants have thrived in smoke-free states and communities across the nation, and studies repeatedly have found smoke-free laws do not harm business and may even have a positive impact. Any legislator voting to weaken or repeal smoke-free laws is voting to take away the public right’s to breathe clean air, putting lives at risk and going against the clear wishes of the voting public.
According to the CDC, despite increased adoption of state and local smoke-free laws, approximately 88 million nonsmoking Americans are still exposed to secondhand smoke each year. Children are disproportionately affected, with more than half being exposed to secondhand smoke.
The CDC report, published in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, finds that seven states have no statewide smoking restrictions in place for workplaces, restaurants or bars: Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming (however, many communities in these states have enacted strong local 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 7,000 chemicals, including at least 69 carcinogens. The Surgeon General found that secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, respiratory illnesses, 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.
It's time for every state and community to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air.