The fight to stop the tobacco industry’s dangerous hold on our country’s health is ever-changing and demands strong, comprehensive public policy change.
Smoke-Free Law Anniversaries Mark the New Year
This week marks not only the start of a new year, but also the anniversaries of two very important laws to assist the fight against cancer. On Jan. 1, California celebrated the 15th anniversary of its landmark statewide smoke-free law. It was the first state to enact a strong law requiring all restaurants and bars statewide to be smoke-free. California was a leader at the time, and since then 24 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have enacted comprehensive smoke-free laws. However, with mounting evidence of the hazards of secondhand smoke, the California law has not been updated, and some workers remain unprotected. I'm proud to say that communities across California continue to pass local ordinances that protect all workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke a trend that is spreading across the country. Also on Jan. 1, Illinois celebrated the 5th anniversary of its smoke-free law. Illinois' law is comprehensive, covering all restaurants, bars, workplaces and casinos across the state. Although the law has faced its fair share of challenges, it continues to hold strong as model state legislation to protect the health of patrons and workers. Tobacco companies claim smoke-free laws are bad for business, but the research consistently proves them wrong. Many studies in different parts of the country have shown that smoke-free laws do not harm restaurants' sales, and actually save businesses money. For example, one year after New York City's smoke-free law took effect, the New York State Department of Health found that the city's businesses saved more than $500 million each year in tobacco-related health care costs. So in addition to taking a moment to commemorate California and Illinois for their efforts to fight back against the dangers of tobacco, I'd also like to express my hope that all states and communities will recognize the fallacy of the tobacco industry's erroneous claims and pass comprehensive smoke-free laws to protect all citizens from the dangers of secondhand smoke.