by William V. Corr
June 23, 2004
Secondhand smoke isn't just annoying; it's a scientifically proven cause of serious health problems, including lung cancer, heart disease and chronic lung ailments such as bronchitis and asthma. Because of the risk that even short-term exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger heart attacks, experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently warned persons with heart disease to avoid indoor settings where smoking is allowed. All of us should be able to earn a living, dine in a restaurant or enjoy a night out without putting our health at risk because of secondhand smoke.
Massachusetts' actions underscore the growing, bipartisan momentum across the country to protect everyone's right to breathe clean, smoke-free air. Massachusetts joins California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine and New York in having enacted statewide smoke-free workplace laws that cover restaurants and bars. Florida, Idaho and Utah have passed statewide smoke-free laws that exempt only stand-alone bars. A growing number of cities and counties across the country have enacted strong laws as well.
Smoke-free laws protect health. Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals and 69 known carcinogens including formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, benzene and radioactive polonium 210. A recent study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization concluded, "Nonsmokers are exposed to the same carcinogens as active smokers. Even the typical levels of passive exposure have been shown to cause lung cancer" among people who have never smoked. In addition to lung cancer, secondhand smoke is proven to cause heart disease, emphysema and other illnesses and is responsible nationally for thousands of deaths each year. Studies show that kids are especially vulnerable to other people's smoke, suffering more respiratory problems, ear infections and asthma.
Smoke-free laws do not hurt business. Contrary to opponents' claims, numerous studies and the experience of smoke-free states and communities consistently show that smoke-free laws do not harm sales or employment in restaurants and bars and may even have a positive impact. The latest evidence comes from New York City, where a report found that, in the year after the city's comprehensive smoke-free law took effect March 30, 2003, business receipts for restaurants and bars increased, employment rose, the number of liquor licenses increased, virtually all establishments are complying with the law, and the vast majority of New Yorkers support the law.
Smoke-free laws are good for health and good for business and should be enacted in every state and every community.
William V. Corr
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