A coalition of public health and business organizations today launched a newspaper and radio advertising campaign about the need for a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free workplace law that protects all Pennsylvanians from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke.
The Pennsylvania House on July 16 voted 141 to 62 to approve comprehensive smoke-free legislation that covers restaurants, bars and casinos, and repeals pre-emptive language that prohibits most local governments from enacting smoke-free laws. But prior to the House vote—and in stark contrast to that chamber's strong bill—the Senate approved loophole-filled legislation that fails to protect all workers and would exempt casinos, some restaurants and bars, nursing homes and other adult-care centers, and even small home-based day care centers. The Senate bill would also overturn existing local smoke-free laws and prohibit local governments from enacting stronger smoke-free laws in the future.
The next step in the legislative process would be the appointment of a House-Senate conference committee to negotiate the final legislation.
The new advertising campaign focuses on the serious health risks of secondhand smoke, the growing number of states that have enacted comprehensive smoke-free laws and the strong public and editorial support for a comprehensive law in Pennsylvania.
"What's Pennsylvania waiting for? With a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law, we can protect everyone's right to breathe clean air," the radio ad states.
The ad campaign is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Alliance to Control Tobacco (PACT), Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. It is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. View and listen to the ads.
"Secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses," said Bill Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. "With a comprehensive smoke-free law in Pennsylvania, we can ensure that no one has to choose between their health and their paycheck."
Patrick Conway, CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, added, "It would be totally unacceptable for Pennsylvania to have two classes of citizens—those we protect and those we don't protect from the deadly pollutants in secondhand smoke."
The newspaper and radio ads make the following points:
- Secondhand smoke is a serious public health hazard. In issuing a landmark report on secondhand smoke in June 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General stated, "The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults." Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 known to cause cancer. According to the Surgeon General, secondhand smoke is proven to cause lung cancer, heart disease, serious respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. It is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year. The Surgeon General also found that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke; the only way to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is with comprehensive smoke-free workplaces and public places; and smoke-free laws do not hurt business.
- Pennsylvanians deserve the same protections from secondhand smoke—and the same right to breathe clean air—that more than half of all Americans already have. The ads point out that 22 states have passed smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars, including almost all of Pennsylvania's neighbors.
- Pennsylvanians strongly support a comprehensive smoke-free law. In a May 2007 poll, 84 percent of Pennsylvania voters agreed that all workers should be protected from secondhand smoke. In addition, 86 percent of voters said restaurants and bars would be healthier for customers and employees if they were smoke-free. The Pennsylvania Restaurant Association has also endorsed a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free workplace law, as have numerous newspaper editorials across the state.