Smoke-Free Legislation Approved in Nation 's Capital

January 31, 2006

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- January 31, 2006 -- Workers and patrons in the nation’s capital may soon breathe easier thanks to Mayor Anthony Williams’ (D) approval of a bill that will make indoor workplaces in the District, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free. The smoke-free bill passed the D.C. Council earlier this month by a vote of 11-1.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN) is pleased that Mayor Williams approved a comprehensive smoke-free bill that will protect District workers and patrons from secondhand smoke, a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease and other serious diseases.

“Mayor Williams did the right thing by allowing this bill to move forward to the benefit of District workers and patrons,” said Daniel E. Smith, the American Cancer Society’s national vice president, government relations. “The adoption of smoke-free legislation in the nation’s capital punctuates a nationwide trend that has seen 13 states and thousands of communities go smoke-free. The District is now on the verge of joining New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston as a world-class smoke-free city.”

The smoke-free trend has been accelerating in recent years. Until recently, California and Utah were the only states that required smoke-free workplaces. In 2002, two states (Delaware and Florida) enacted comprehensive smoking bans. Three states (Connecticut, Maine and New York) followed suit in 2003, as did three additional states in each of 2004 (Idaho, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) and 2005 (Montana, Vermont and Washington state). During this time, the number of cities and localities with smoke-free laws has risen dramatically to more than 2,000.

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.

“Smoke-free measures make for smart policy,” said Karlynn BrintzenhofeSzoc, a member of American Cancer Society’s South Atlantic Division board of directors and a District resident. “They improve workers’ health and reduce the health care costs paid by employers. And research has debunked the myth that smoke-free policies lower bar and restaurant sales.Evidence from areas that have already gone smoke-free shows that the laws protect health without harming sales or employment.”

Smoke-free policies reduce nicotine concentration levels in office and non-office worksites, lower the incidence of eye, nose and throat irritation among workers, and cut the number of workers with respiratory problems. Eliminating smoking from the workplace can help reduce workers’ long-term risk of lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.

A healthier workforce means healthier businesses. Smoking increases both employer and employee medical care costs. In addition, employees who smoke have significantly higher absentee, injury, accident, and disciplinary rates than their non-smoking colleagues.

Current D.C. law permits smoking in offices, health care facilities, day care centers, bars and restaurants. The smoke-free bill will protect the District’s workers and most vulnerable citizens – children, the elderly, and people with various health conditions – from exposure to the 4,000 chemicals and more than 60 carcinogens in secondhand smoke.

District workplaces, including restaurant dining rooms and workplaces, will become smoke-free immediately upon the bill’s enactment, while nightclubs, pubs, clubs and taverns will go smoke-free on January 1, 2007. Outdoor dining areas, retail tobacco outlets and medical treatment or research institutions where smoking is conducted for therapeutic purposes are exempt from these requirements. Also exempt are cigar bars, hookah bars and other establishments that can prove that 10 percent or more of their revenue comes from tobacco sales.

Now that the mayor has approved the bill, local ACS CAN staff and volunteers, along with the Society’s local public health partners, will continue working to ensure that it becomes law. The bill now goes to Capitol Hill for congressional review.

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

Steven Weiss
Phone: (202) 661-5711
Email: [email protected]

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