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Philadelphia City Council Stands up for Right to Breathe Clean Air; Mayor Street Should Sign Legislation

Statement of Matthew L. Myers President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
June 15, 2006

Washington, DC — The Philadelphia City Council today delivered a major victory for the public's right to breathe clean air by approving legislation to make Philadelphia workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free. We urge Mayor John F. Street to follow the lead of the Council and the wishes of the overwhelming majority of Philadelphia residents and sign this bill into law. The bill would take effect in January 2007, but includes a provision that allows a limited number of bars to apply for an exemption. We urge the Council to resist any efforts to weaken the bill so that it eventually protects ALL workers and patrons from the proven health risks of secondhand smoke.

We applaud Councilman Nutter for introducing this legislation and for his dedication to this critical public health measure, as well as Councilwoman Tasco for introducing a smoke-free bill and the other Council Members who voted for the bill today - Council Members Clarke, DiCicco, Goode, Kenney, Miller, Ramos and Reynolds Brown.

Secondhand smoke isn't just annoying, but a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease and other serious health hazards. It contains more than 4,000 chemicals and at least 69 known carcinogens and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is responsible for at least 38,000 deaths nationwide each year. No one should have to choose between a good job and good health.

In passing this legislation, Philadelphia is on the verge of joining the growing, bipartisan movement across the country and the world to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air. Fourteen states have passed smoke-free workplace laws that include restaurants and bars. These states are: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington, as well as Washington, DC and Puerto Rico (the Montana and Utah laws extend to bars in 2009, while the DC law does so on January 1, 2007). Two other states - Florida and Idaho - have smoke-free laws that exempt only stand-alone bars. Hundreds of cities and counties across the United States have also taken action, as have whole countries including Ireland, England (effective 2007), Northern Ireland (effective 2007), Scotland, Uruguay, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Italy, Bhutan and Bermuda.

The evidence is also clear that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. Dozens of studies and hard economic data have shown that smoke-free laws do not harm sales or employment in restaurants and bars and sometimes have a positive impact. Some of the strongest evidence comes from New York City, where a report found that, in the year after the city's comprehensive smoke-free law took effect March 30, 2003, business receipts for restaurants and bars increased, employment rose, the number of liquor licenses increased, virtually all establishments are complying with the law, and the vast majority of New Yorkers support the law. There is also growing evidence that smoke-free laws can save money. A study released in August 2005 by the Society of Actuaries found that secondhand smoke costs our country $10 billion a year in health care bills, lost wages and other costs.

It's time for leaders in every state and community to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air.