D.C. Council Should Reject Effort to Open Cigar Loophole in Smoke-Free Law

June 14, 2011

WASHINGTON, June 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following is a statement of the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids:

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District of Columbia public health advocates call on Mayor Gray and the city council to reject language inserted into the Budget Support Act by Councilman Michael Brown that would create a loophole in the District’s highly successful smoke-free law. Brown’s language would allow hotels with large banquet rooms to host events which permit cigar smoking.

This legislation would set a terrible precedent. It invites efforts to seek additional exemptions to the law and undermines its effectiveness in protecting all DC residents, visitors and workers from harmful secondhand smoke.

DC’s smoke-free law has been enormously successful and popular. The evidence is clear that it is protecting public health without harming business. Many hospitality business owners who had feared the impact of the law now strongly support it. And hospitality workers can now earn a paycheck without putting themselves at risk of the lung cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses caused by secondhand smoke. There is simply no reason to create any exemptions.

Supporters of the legislation offer the outrageous defense that it allows employees to opt out of working at the events where smoking is permitted. Why should hospitality workers have to sacrifice several hours of pay in order to protect their health? Surely the Council would never exempt charitable events from other public health and safety laws, such as sanitary food or fire safety requirements. It is no more acceptable that they provide exemptions to the smoke-free law.

It is also not the case that this exemption is needed to prevent event organizers from taking their business elsewhere. In addition to DC, 28 states and hundreds of cities and counties have now enacted strong smoke-free laws that apply to restaurants, bars and other workplaces. The American public strongly supports such laws and has come to expect them. Many states and cities have found that being smoke-free provides a competitive advantage in attracting conventions and other large events. In addition, cigar smoking is not and has never been a prerequisite for a successful event, but cigar smoke, like cigarette smoke, is toxic and a danger to the health of event participants and workers.

This legislation is bad for health and unnecessary to protect business. We urge the D.C. Council to reject it and any other efforts to weaken DC’s smoke-free law.

SOURCE Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Source: newswire

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