JUNEAU, Alaska – May 15, 2018—In the final hours of the legislative session, the Alaska State Legislature passed a statewide smoke-free workplaces bill, Senate Bill 63. This bill, commonly called the “Take It Outside Act”, was sponsored by Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) and was championed by thousands of businesses, organizations and individuals across the state, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN).
Currently, only half of Alaska residents are protected by local laws from exposure to secondhand smoke inside their workplaces. When the new statewide law goes into effect on October 1, Alaskans all across the state will be protected from secondhand smoke and e-cigarette aerosol on the job.
"Everyone has the right to breathe smoke-free air, and that right should not be temporary," said Emily Nenon, Alaska government relations director for ACS CAN.
The smoke-free bill was weakened in its final House committee to include a provision allowing local communities to opt out of the statewide health protections. "We opposed the opt out provision because it runs counter to protecting public health. No one can opt out of breathing. We will have to remain vigilant for years to come to ensure that no Alaskan has their right to breathe taken away," Nenon stated.
Passage of the bill comes after two decades of work at the local level, and five years in the state legislative process. Bethel was the first community in Alaska to pass a smoke-free workplace law back in 1998. Since that time, many communities across the state have acted to protect their residents, including Anchorage, Juneau, Utqiagvik, Nome, Palmer, Skagway, Haines, Dillingham and Unalaska. Additionally, 135 of Alaska’s federally recognized tribes have also passed smoke-free tribal policies.
For much of the rest of the state, though, a statewide law is the only way to ensure protection. Boroughs such as Kenai Peninsula, Fairbanks North Star and Mat-Su do not have governmental authority to enact local smoke-free workplace ordinances. Additionally, thousands of Alaskans live in areas with no local government at all.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), secondhand smoke kills nearly 42,000 adult nonsmokers in the United States every year from diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke. The US Surgeon General has concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke contains hundreds of toxic chemicals, including about 70 that can cause cancer.
About the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)
ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.