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Delaware Senate Rejects Bill to Weaken Public’s Right to Breathe Clean Air

Statement of William V. Corr Executive Vice President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
April 09, 2003

Washington, D.C. — The Delaware Senate has resoundingly affirmed the state's historic smoke-free indoor workplace law by voting 14 to 7 to defeat a bill that would poke loopholes in the law. With this vote, Delaware remains a national leader in protecting the public's right to breathe clean air free from the proven dangers of secondhand smoke. Delaware can look forward to improving health and saving lives by protecting workers and customers from the poisons in secondhand smoke. Time will show that the new law is good for business as well, as other states and communities with smoke-free workplace laws have shown. We would especially like to commend Governor Ruth Ann Minner, Senator David B. McBride, and Reps. Deborah Hudson and Robert J. Valihura for their visionary leadership on this issue. They are true champions of the public's health. By rejecting proposals to carve out loopholes for bars and casinos, Delaware will continue to have one of the most comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws in the nation.

The evidence of the dangers of secondhand smoke has prompted a growing number of states and communities across the United States to protect the public's right to breathe clean air. In addition to Delaware, those enacting comprehensive measures in the past year include New York City and state, Dallas and Boston. Demonstrating the strong public support for such measures, 71 percent of Florida voters in November approved a comprehensive smoke-free law governing restaurants and most indoor workplaces.

A study released last month showed that Delaware's new smoke-free law is dramatically reducing exposure to air pollutants known to increase the risk of cancer, respiratory disease, heart disease and stroke. In addition, just last week, a study of the Helena, Montana, smoke-free ordinance showed heart attacks declined significantly after the city passed a smoke-free ordinance similar to Delaware's.

The main argument for weakening Delaware's law – that it will harm business – has been disproved in other states and communities that have enacted smoke-free workplace policies. Despite the tobacco industry's false claims, the facts show that smoke-free laws do not harm and can even improve business. One comprehensive study of restaurant sales tax data from 81 localities in six states found consistently that ordinances restricting smoking in restaurants had no effect on revenues. In addition, such laws, where enacted, reduce health care costs attributable to treating illnesses caused by secondhand smoke. A 1994 federal study showed, for example, that a ban on smoking in public places would save up to $72 billion in health care costs and lost productivity, while also reducing insurance costs.

There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that exposure to secondhand smoke causes disease, disability and death. Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 chemicals and 69 known carcinogens including formaldehyde, cyanide, arsenic, carbon monoxide, methane, benzene and radioactive polonium 210. A recent study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization concluded, 'Nonsmokers are exposed to the same carcinogens as active smokers. The study found that even the typical levels of passive exposure have been shown to cause lung cancer' among people who have never smoked. In addition to lung cancer, secondhand smoke is proven to cause heart disease, emphysema and other illnesses and is responsible nationally for thousands of deaths each year. Studies show that kids are especially vulnerable to other people's smoke, suffering more respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma. Every state and community should act quickly to enact smoke-free workplace policies that protect the public's right to breathe clean air and reduce the harm caused by secondhand smoke.