Speaker Pelosi Delivers Victory for the Right to Breathe Clean, Smoke-Free Air

Statement of William V. Corr Executive Director, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
January 10, 2007

Washington, DC — By declaring the Speaker’s Lobby of the U.S. Capitol to be smoke-free, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today sent a powerful message to the nation about the serious dangers of secondhand smoke and the need to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean, smoke-free air. From office buildings to restaurants and bars to the Capitol of the United States, all workers and the public should be protected from secondhand smoke. Speaker Pelosi’s action today is consistent with Washington, DC’s new smoke-free workplace law. We urge all members of Congress to show the same consideration for the health and safety of their employees and adopt smoke-free policies in their offices and throughout the U.S. Capitol complex.

Speaker Pelosi’s action is an appropriate response to the overwhelming and ever-growing evidence that secondhand smoke poses a serious threat to human health. As the U.S. Surgeon General concluded in a landmark report last year, “The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults.” The Surgeon General found that secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, serious respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. The Surgeon General also found that secondhand smoke is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year; there is no safe level of exposure; only smoke-free policies provide effective protection; and smoke-free laws protect health without harming business.

Speaker Pelosi’s action adds momentum to already powerful efforts to enact smoke-free laws around the country. Sixteen states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have passed strong smoke-free workplace laws that include restaurants and bars. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington (the Montana and Utah laws extend to bars in 2009). Four other states - Florida, Idaho, Louisiana and Nevada - have smoke-free laws that exempt only stand-alone bars. Hundreds of cities and counties across the country have also taken action.

These laws reflect both the broad scientific consensus that secondhand smoke poses a serious threat to health and the broad public consensus that no one should have to endure these risks in order to earn a living. It is time for every state and community to protect the public’s right to breathe clean air by enacting comprehensive smoke-free laws that include all workplaces and public places.