WASHINGTON, D.C. -- December 13, 2006 -- The year 2006 has been marked by enormous progress in the effort to protect the public from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke.
Three states have fully enacted comprehensive smoke-free laws this year, bringing the number of smoke-free states to 18. In addition, more than 100 communities across the country have enacted smoke-free laws in 2006, for a total ofmore than 2,300, according to the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation.
Election Day 2006 was hugely successful for public health advocates, as six tobacco control ballot initiatives were approved in five states across the country. The tobacco industry spent an unprecedented $100 million to defeat these initiatives using tactics clearly designed to deceive voters.
Since Election Day, the tobacco industry has backed last-ditch lawsuits to block smokefree laws from taking effect in states including Nevada and Ohio. Public health groups expect to defeat the suits and enable the laws to be enforced. If the smoke-free laws that were approved this year are enacted, more than 50 percent of Americans will be covered by a smoke-free law that includes at least restaurants, according to ANRF.
“Support for smoke-free laws is strong and getting stronger,” said Daniel E. Smith, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the sister advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society. ACS CAN has led the nationwide movement for clean indoor air by devoting staff, volunteers and resources to smoke-free efforts in states and communities across the country.
“Growing numbers of Americans are living in smoke-free communities, despite the tobacco industry’s efforts to deceive the public and subvert the voters’ wishes,” Smith said. “We will not let up until all states and communities across the country provide smoke-free workplaces – including those in the hospitality industry – that protect all people from the dangers of secondhand smoke.”
“Smoke-free laws reduce the risk of tobacco-related illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and emphysema, and the costs of treating these diseases,” said John R. Seffrin, chief executive of ACS CAN and the American Cancer Society. “Dozens of independent peer-reviewed studies and the U.S. Surgeon General have said these laws have no adverse financial effect on the hospitality industry. The evidence is clear: Smoke-free laws are good for patrons, workers and the businesses that serve or employ them.”
Colorado, Hawaii and New Jersey have implemented smoke-free laws this year. In addition, the Utah legislature voted to strengthen its smoke-free law, which already covers restaurants and private clubs, to include bars.
Arizona and Louisiana are set to implement smoke-free laws early next year. The implementation of new smoke-free laws in Ohio and Nevada, scheduled for Dec. 7 and 8, respectively, has been held up by last-minute lawsuits brought by smoke-free opponents. Public health groups are counting on all four laws to be implemented, bringing the total number of smoke-free states to 22.
Public health advocates scored a big victory early this year when Washington, D.C. passed a comprehensive smoke-free law. The law currently covers restaurant dining areas, while restaurant bars, nightclubs, pubs, clubs and taverns will go smoke-free in the nation’s capital Jan. 2. Indianapolis, Philadelphia and St. Paul were among the other major cities to enact smoke-free laws in 2006. In addition, Louisville passed a law that will be enacted in March.
Voters in Arizona, Nevada and Ohio approved statewide smoke-free laws on Election Day.A ballot initiative approved in Florida will require the legislature to annually fund a comprehensive statewide tobacco prevention program using tobacco settlement money. Voters in Arizona also passed an increase in the state’s tobacco excise tax, as did voters in South Dakota. In the last four years, 42 states have raised the tax on cigarettes, bringing the average tax to $1 per pack. Studies have shown that for every 10 percent rise in cigarette prices, youth smoking rates decline by seven percent and adult smoking rates fall by four percent.
In June, a landmark report from the U.S. Surgeon General concluded that there is no riskfree level of exposure to secondhand smoke. The report said 126 million non-smokers – including millions of children – are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke. The report stated that the way to protect public health is to eliminate exposure to secondhand smoke through the implementation of strong smoke-free workplace laws.
The smoke-free trend has been accelerating in recent years. Until recently, California and Utah were the only states with strong smoke-free laws. In 2002, two states (Delaware and South Dakota) enacted comprehensive smoking bans. Three states (Connecticut, Florida and New York) followed suit in 2003, as did three additional states in 2004 (Idaho, Maine and Massachusetts) and five states in 2005 (Montana, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington state).
Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in this country. Secondhand smoke is a major health hazard, containing 4,000 chemicals and more than 60 carcinogens. A leading cause of lung cancer, emphysema, lung disease and heart disease, secondhand smoke is responsible for an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmoking adults each year.
ACS CAN is the nonprofit, nonpartisan sister advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society. ACS CAN is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major public health problem through issue campaigns and voter education aimed at lawmakers and candidates to support laws and policies that will help people fight cancer. ACS CAN does not endorse candidates and is not a political action committee (PAC). For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.
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