South Dakota passes strong smoke-free law

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Statement by Matthew L. Myers, President, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

The people of South Dakota delivered a historic victory for health and the right to breathe clean air by overwhelmingly approving Referred Question 12 that makes almost all workplaces, including restaurants, bars and gaming facilities, smoke-free. With bipartisan support, South Dakota is the 29th state to pass a strong smoke-free law that includes all restaurants and bars.

We applaud the leadership and persistence of the many individuals and organizations who have championed the ballot measure, which clears the way to implement a law approved by the Legislature and Governor Mike Rounds in March 2009. The voters have done the right thing to protect workers and the public from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke.

The South Dakota vote underscores the strong public support for action to reduce tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke. It adds to the growing momentum across the country and around the world to protect everyone's right to breathe smoke-free air. With the addition of South Dakota, more than 63 percent of Americans will be protected by strong smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars. No one should have to put their health at risk in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out.

South Dakota joins 28 other states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico in passing smoke-free legislation that covers restaurants and bars. The states are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

Secondhand Smoke and Smoke-Free Laws

The need for protection from secondhand smoke in all workplaces and public places has never been clearer. In issuing a groundbreaking report on secondhand smoke in June 2006, U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona 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 carcinogens. The Surgeon General found that secondhand smoke is a proven cause of lung cancer, heart disease, respiratory illnesses, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome.  The Surgeon General also found that secondhand smoke is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year, there is no safe level of exposure, and only smoke-free laws provide effective protection.

The evidence is also clear that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. As the Surgeon General concluded, "Evidence from peer-reviewed studies shows that smoke-free policies and regulations do not have an adverse impact on the hospitality industry."

It's time for every state and community to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air.

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