D.C. Council Vote on Smoke-Free Bill A Step in the Right Direction

December 6, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- December 6, 2005 -- The D.C. Council today voted 12-1 in favor of a smokefree law that would protect thousands of District workers and patrons from the dangers of secondhand smoke. A second and final vote on the bill could take place later this month or in early January.

The bill, called the “Department of Health Functions Clarification Amendment Act of 2005,” (Bill-16-293), contains provisions that are of concern to public health advocates, including a hardship waiver that would allow restaurants and bars that can show an economic harm from the law to apply for a waiver from the smoking ban, and an implementation date of Jan. 1, 2007 for brew pubs, clubs, nightclubs, taverns and the bar and bar areas of restaurants.

Local staff and volunteers of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM and its tobacco control partners have been working tirelessly in support of a comprehensive smoke-free law that would protect all D.C. workers and patrons from the hazards of secondhand smoke, which contains 4,000 chemicals and more than 60 carcinogens.

Following is a statement on today’s vote from Daniel E. Smith, the American Cancer Society’s national vice president, government relations:

“The D.C. Council today took an important step toward making the nation’s capital smoke-free. The bill is not perfect, but it would protect vast numbers of District workers and patrons from secondhand smoke, a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease and other serious diseases.

“The inclusion of a hardship waiver is based on the assumption that smoke-free policies hurt business. In fact, the opposite is true. Dozens of scientific studies and hard economic data have shown that smoke-free laws do not hurt bar or restaurant sales. In fact, these laws often have a positive economic impact. The evidence is clear: smoke-free laws are good for business.

“If the bill includes a hardship waiver, there must be clear, strict requirements for businesses seeking a waiver. These should include providing documentation clearly showing a significant decrease in revenue in the year after the smoke-free law is enacted. By allowing waivers in only limited circumstances, the smoke-free law will represent the best approach to protecting the greatest number of workers from deadly secondhand smoke.

“The sooner a comprehensive smoke-free law is implemented, the sooner we can begin reducing the risk of tobacco-related illnesses from secondhand smoke, such as cancer, heart disease and emphysema, and save the District money on the costs of treating them. A swift implementation would protect all workers from the health risks associated with secondhand smoke and create a level playing field for all workplaces, including restaurants and bars.

“Other jurisdictions have included short implementation periods in their smoke-free laws: New York state went smoke-free 90 days after its legislation was signed into law and Washington state will implement its law 30 days after passage. Prince George’s County, Md. will become smoke-free 45 days after passage, joining Montgomery County and the 12 states and hundreds of other smoke-free communities nationwide protected by strong smoke-free ordinances.

“Despite its flaws, the bill places D.C. on the cusp of joining the 12 states and hundreds of communities in the United States with comprehensive smoke-free laws. With a second and final vote scheduled soon, we urge the Council to heed the wishes of District voters, 74 percent of whom support a comprehensive smoke-free law, by limiting the number and scope of exemptions in the bill. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, along with its public health partners, will continue to advocate for a strong bill that will afford all District workers and patrons their right to breathe smoke-free air.”

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 voter education and issue campaigns aimed at influencing candidates and lawmakers 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

Trista Hargrove
Phone: (202) 585-3221
Email: [email protected]

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