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New Report by California EPA Underscores Dangers of Secondhand Smoke and Need to Make All Workplaces Smoke-Free

Statement of William V. Corr, Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
October 03, 2005

Washington, DC — A new risk assessment report released by the highly respected California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal-EPA) presents the most comprehensive summary to date of the many health hazards caused by secondhand smoke, reaffirming the broad scientific consensus that secondhand smoke causes cancer, heart disease, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), low-birth-weight, asthma and other serious respiratory illnesses. This report makes it clear that there is overwhelming and incontrovertible scientific evidence that secondhand smoke poses a significant risk to human health and causes tens of thousands of deaths each year in the United States. While the report does not make policy recommendations, it underscores the need for state and local governments, as well as employers, to adopt comprehensive smoke-free workplace policies that protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air. All workers have the right to earn a living without putting themselves at risk of the life-threatening diseases caused by secondhand smoke.

The report also concludes that there is now enough scientific evidence to classify secondhand smoke as a cause of breast cancer in younger, primarily premenopausal women. The Cal-EPA finding was the result of a thorough and careful review process and represents the first time that any major scientific or government agency has concluded that secondhand smoke is a cause of breast cancer. The report provides another reason why women should avoid secondhand smoke and why policymakers and employers should ensure that no woman is exposed to secondhand smoke at work and in public places. It is important to note that this is not the first time that Cal-EPA has been at the forefront in recognizing a causal link between secondhand smoke and disease. Cal-EPA was also the first scientific agency to formally recognize the link between secondhand smoke and heart disease, about which there is now broad scientific consensus.

The mountain of evidence about the many health harms caused by secondhand smoke is growing all the time. That is why people across America are speaking up for their right to breathe clean air and a growing number of states, localities and employers are taking action. Eight states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont – have comprehensive, statewide smoke-free laws. Four other states – Florida, Idaho, Montana and Utah – have strong smoke-free laws that exempt only stand-alone bars (Montana’s law will extend to bars in 2009). Hundreds of cities and counties across the country, and whole countries around the world, have taken action a well, and more are going smoke-free all the time. It’s time to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air.