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New York Celebrates Ten Years of Smoke-Free Air

July 24, 2013


Congratulations to New York, which this week is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its comprehensive smoke-free law that applies to all workplaces, restaurants and bars.

'The passage of New York State's Clean Indoor Air Act was a historic moment for public health,'Blair Horner, vice president of advocacy at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, told the Associated Press. 'In 2002, the average New York bar or restaurant was essentially a hotbox of deadly carcinogens. For hospitality workers clocking an eight-hour shift, this was an incredibly dangerous situation.'

Like other smoke-free cities and states, New York has shown that smoke-free laws are easily implemented, achieve almost universal compliance and quickly improve air quality and health. According to the state Department of Health, studies have found that hospitalizations for heart attacks decreased significantly after implementation of the law.

There is also overwhelming evidence that smoke-free laws protect health without hurting business. Although the smoke-free law initially worried some business owners, many have come around to supporting it after experiencing the health and other benefits.

'On the restaurant side of the business, our members are now saying the things the anti-smoking advocates said they would experience: It's nice going home not smelling of smoke, it's cheaper to keep the restaurant clean and they don't know how they worked in a smoking environment before,' Scott Wexler, Empire State Restaurant and Tavern Association Executive Director, told the AP.

Today, 30 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and hundreds of U.S. cities and counties have smoke-free laws that include all restaurants and bars. At least 1,182 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.
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.

It’s time for every state and community to follow New York’s lead and protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.