WASHINGTON, D.C. -- January 1, 2007 -- The District of Columbia’s smoke-free workplaces law will take full effect tomorrow, Jan. 2, when workers and patrons will finally enjoy their long-awaited right to breathe smoke-free air in all indoor workplaces, restaurants and bars. District Councilmember and Mayorelect Adrian Fenty, a champion of the new law, will hold a press conference this evening at 5 p.m. at Nathans Restaurant in Georgetown to celebrate the law’s full implementation.
The D.C. Council overwhelmingly approved the smoke-free workplaces law on January 4, 2006. The first phase of the law went into effect in April, making workplaces and restaurant dining areas smoke-free. Tomorrow, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, pubs, clubs and taverns will become smoke-free. Outdoor dining areas, retail tobacco outlets, theatrical productions and medical treatment or research institutions where smoking is conducted for therapeutic purposes will be exempt from the law. Also exempt will be tobacco bars and other establishments that can prove 10 percent or more of their revenue comes from tobacco sales.
“The smoke-free law will make our nation’s capital a healthier city to live and work in,”said Daniel E. Smith, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM, (ACS CAN). “For three years, the D.C. Council worked to make a smoke-free D.C. a reality and the time has finally come. We owe our champions, Adrian Fenty, Kathy Patterson, Phil Mendelson and all the councilmembers who supported the bill our thanks for their support of this critical health policy.”
Washington D.C. joins the ranks of hundreds of U.S. cities that have enacted smoke-free laws, including Boston, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and St. Paul. Philadelphia’s smoke-free law takes effect Jan. 8. More than 2,300 communities across the country are smoke-free, as are 21states. A smoke-free law in Louisiana goes into effect today, while laws in Nevada and Ohio took effect last month. Arizona will enact a smoke-free law in May.
The U.S. Surgeon General’s June 2006 report on secondhand smoke supported the already clear evidence that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. That conclusion is supported by dozens of scientific studies and the experience of the growing number of smoke-free countries, states and cities. The Surgeon General also found that exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system; that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke; that only smoke-free policies provide effective protection; and that separating smokers from nonsmokers in the same air space and ventilating buildings are not effective at eliminating exposure of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke.
“No one should have to risk their health to make a living or enjoy a night out,” said Karlynn BrintzenhofeSzoc, a member of American Cancer Society’s South Atlantic Division board of directors and a District resident. “This important public health measure will lead to a healthier workforce and healthier workplaces, and best of all, the law enjoys overwhelming popular support.”
In a Dec. 5 Washington Post Express poll, more than 80 percent of respondents said they were looking forward to a smoke-free city. And a survey of more than 115,000 people for Zagat’s 2006 America’s Top Restaurants guide found that 89 percent of Americans and 82 percent of Washington D.C. respondents think smoking should be totally eliminated in restaurants. According to Zagat, 73 percent of D.C locals would dine out the same amount if restaurants were smoke-free and 25 percent would dine out more. Only two percent said they would dine out less.
In addition to celebrating the smoke-free law tonight, Fenty, Mendelson and Patterson will also be awarded the American Cancer Society’s National Distinguished Advocacy Award, the highest national advocacy honor bestowed by the voluntary health organization. This mark of distinction is awarded to select legislators who have demonstrated valiant leadership and unwavering support in the field of public advocacy for cancer-related issues. The three D.C. councilmembers are being commended for their longtime commitment to passing the smoke-free workplaces law to protect the health of the District’s citizens from the dangers of secondhand smoke in the workplace.
Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in this country. Perhaps less known is the extent of the dangers of secondhand smoke, a leading cause of lung cancer, emphysema, lung disease and heart disease as well as serious respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. Each year, secondhand smoke is responsible for an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths in nonsmoking adults and 35,000-40,000 heart disease deaths.
ACS CAN staff and volunteers, along with their public health partners, and the D.C. Department of Health are committed to ensuring the new smoke-free law is properly implemented and enforced. For more information on the law, visit http://doh.dc.gov/ and click on Smoke-free Law. For more information on ACS CAN’s smoke-free campaign, visit www.breathedc.org. Smokers who wish to quit can double their chances of kicking the habit for good by calling the D.C. Quitline®, a free telephone-based smoking cessation service, at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
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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