WASHINGTON, D.C. -- June 20, 2007 -- Nearly halfway through 2007, the smoke-free movement that has swept the country in recent years has assumed an even faster pace. In the past week alone, New Mexico’s smoke-free law took effect; New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed a smoke-free bill covering restaurants and bars that will take effect in 90 days and the Oregon legislature passed a bill that will make all workplaces, restaurants and bars smoke-free in January 2009.
Since January 1, governors in Tennessee, Maryland, Minnesota and New Mexico have signed comprehensive laws; smoke-free laws in Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. have taken effect and legislatures in Illinois and Oregon have passed smoke-free laws that the governors of those states are expected to sign.
To date, 23 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. have enacted smoke-free laws that protect the health of millions of workers and patrons. When Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oregon have implemented their laws, a total of 28 states more than half the country will be protected by smoke-free laws. As a percentage of the population, 57 percent currently live under smoke-free laws at the state or local level. Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin’s state legislatures are currently considering state-wide smoke-free laws.
The U.S. Surgeon General’s landmark 2006 report concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. The report also confirmed what dozens of peer reviewed studies had already shown that smoke-free policies do not have an adverse impact on the hospitality industry. And public support for smoke-free laws continues to grow across the nation. Zagat Survey® has consistently found that restaurant goers are more likely to dine out when restaurants are smoke-free. Last year the survey found that 89 percent of all Americans think smoking should be eliminated in restaurants.
“All workers deserve to be protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke on the job,” said Daniel E. Smith, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN), the sister advocacy organization of the American Cancer Society that has worked to enact state and local smoke-free laws across the country. “Smoke-free laws benefit everyone; workers can make a living without risking their health; regular patrons as well as tourists can enjoy a night out without the hazards of secondhand smoke; and bar and restaurant owners don’t lose business, have fewer employees fall ill from working in a smoky environment and save on cleaning their establishments. Everyone wins.”
Eliminating smoking in casinos is also beginning to gain momentum across the country. Colorado recently included casinos in their law, to take effect next January, and the New Jersey legislature will vote on casinos this Thursday. Currently casinos in California, Delaware, Puerto Rico and Washington State are smoke-free and in Illinois (pending Governor’s signature) and Montana, they will become smoke-free Jan. 2008 and Jan. 2009 respectively.
The smoke-free trend has accelerated in recent years. Until 2002, California and Utah were the only states with strong smoke-free laws. Then, in 2002, two states (Delaware and South Dakota) implemented smoke-free laws. 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). In 2006, five states (Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Jersey and Ohio) joined the smoke-free club and so far in 2007, three more states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C, have gone smoke-free. The number of communities with smoke-free laws has skyrocketed too, from roughly 300 in 1986 to more than 2,500 at present.
Last month, the Institute of Medicine released a report, “Ending the Tobacco Problem: A Blueprint for the Nation,” that recommended smoke-free policies in indoor settings nationwide, among other important tobacco control measures. ACS CAN and its sister charitable organization the Society continue to work at partner together at the local and state levels to pass, protect and strengthen smoke-free laws.
Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death in this country, with 30 percent of all cancer deaths caused by tobacco use. Secondhand smoke is a major health hazard, proven to cause lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. With 4,000 chemicals and more than 60 carcinogens including arsenic and polonium 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, which is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage lawmakers, candidates and government officials to support laws and policies that will make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer. For more information, visit www.fightcancer.org.
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