Joint statement by ACS, ALA, AHA, & Tobacco Free Missouri on St. Louis County smoke-free airbill

The major voluntary health agencies and Tobacco Free Missouri have just aired ads on KMOX Radio in opposition to the smoke-free air bill which was approved on August 25. The aim is to persuade St. Louis County Executive, Charlie Dooley, to veto it and push for a stronger bill with no significant exemptions. Below is their press release.

For more information contact:

April Dzubic, American Cancer Society
W: 314-286-8187, C: 314-488-4120
april.dzubic@cancer.org

Michelle Bernth, American Lung Association
W: 314-645-5505, ext 1001
mbernth@breathehealthy.org

JOINT STATEMENT
COUNTY COUNCIL ACTION ON SMOKE-FREE PROPOSAL

The American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and Tobacco Free Missouri are extremely disappointed that the St. Louis County Council has voted to send a confusing and badly flawed smoke-free proposal to the ballot. We oppose the proposal because it does not fully protect the public’s right to breathe smoke-free air, makes enforcement unworkable, and unfairly pits business against business. We now call on County Executive Dooley to reject this ordinance in its current form and to ask the Council to start over with a more deliberative process that yields meaningful health protection for St. Louis County.

We hoped the Council would send an ordinance to the people that would do what it was intended to do – truly protect workers and patrons from secondhand smoke, in a way that is easy for people to understand and easy to enforce. We thank the many residents who voiced their support for a strong and comprehensive measure that covers all workplaces, including bars and restaurants and urge everyone to continue the fight for smoke-free air.

Instead, the Council has passed a proposal that compromises the health of those employees and patrons most exposed to secondhand smoke. Smoke-free ordinances are intended to protect employees and customers of all businesses, not just some. Under this proposal, bars will be able to obtain a license from the county to allow smoking. In effect, this will give bars a county-issued license to harm the health of its employees and customers.

Additionally, the proposal contains ten loopholes and many flaws in the language. And as we have seen in many other communities, this leads to confusion and can create expensive enforcement issues and potential legal challenges.

The evidence is clear: In the end, a weak ordinance ends up compromising the health of workers and the public, offers false reassurance, and stands in the way of future efforts. With the abundant science about the dangers of secondhand smoke, exemptions for certain workplaces are no longer acceptable.

In issuing a groundbreaking report on secondhand smoke in 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.” Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 carcinogens. The Surgeon General found that secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, serious respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma.

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