California, Illinois Mark Smoke-Free Anniversaries

January 02, 2013

Revelers in California and Illinois had an extra reason to celebrate this New Year’s Day: The 15th and 5th anniversaries of their states’ smoke-free laws.

California in 1994 became the first state to enact a strong, statewide smoke-free law.  The law was fully implemented on January 1, 1998, making California the first state to require that all restaurants and bars be smoke-free.

California’s law sparked a national and international movement to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air, free from harmful secondhand smoke.

Today, 30 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and more than 700 U.S. cities have smoke-free laws that include all restaurants and bars.  Illinois’ law took effect January 1, 2008 and applies to non-hospitality workplaces in addition to restaurants and bars.

At least 1,130 U.S. colleges and universities also have adopted 100 percent smoke-free policies, according to Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights

Smoke-free laws have spread rapidly across the United States — and around the world — because there is irrefutable evidence that secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard. There is also growing public demand for elected officials to enact laws making all workplaces and public places smoke-free.

Smoke-free laws are easily implemented, achieve almost universal compliance and quickly improve air quality and health.  There is also overwhelming evidence that smoke-free laws protect health without hurting business.

As one Illinois restaurant and lounge owner told the Mt. Vernon Register-News, “It has only affected our business in a positive way.  We went smoke free over a year before that was the law. We gained a lot of customers.”

Secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, including hundreds that are toxic and at least 69 that cause cancer.  According to the U.S. Surgeon General, secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer in non-smoking adults, and respiratory problems, sudden infant death syndrome, low birth weight, ear infections and more severe asthma attacks in infants and children.

We join the Illinois Department of Public Health in saying “Thanks from the bottom of our lungs” for the smoke-free progress and look forward to more gains in 2013.

Image Source: Illinois Department of Public Health