Maryland's New Smoke-Free Law Is A Historic Step For Health
The Maryland Legislature delivered a historic victory for health and the public's right to breathe clean air by passing legislation to make all workplaces, including restaurants and bars, smoke-free.
Governor Martin O'Malley has said he will sign the legislation into law. Maryland becomes the 18th state to pass a smoke-free law that includes restaurants and bars. Maryland's law adds to the growing momentum across the country and around the world to protect all workers and the public from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. No one should have to put their health at risk in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out.
We congratulate the SmokeFree Maryland Coalition for their tireless effort in support of a statewide smoke-free law and the legislators who championed this critical public health measure. Maryland's next challenge is to effectively implement the law to achieve its goal of protecting all workers and the public from secondhand smoke. Regulations implementing the "hardship" waiver in the bill must be stringent and guard against creating any loopholes.
Today's vote shows that Maryland's leaders heard the message voters delivered last year when they replaced two state senators who refused to support the smoke-free law with two senators who championed a smoke-free Maryland. Prior to the elections, the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund launched an independent, direct mail and voter contact campaign to educate Maryland voters about the clear contrast between candidates and their positions on smoke-free laws.
Maryland joins 17 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, that have passed strong smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars. The states are Arizona (effective May 1), California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico (effective June 15), New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Washington (the Montana and Utah laws extend to bars in 2009). Four other states -- Florida, Idaho, Louisiana and Nevada -- have smoke-free laws that exempt stand-alone bars. A growing number of countries have also passed nationwide smoke-free laws, including Bermuda, Bhutan, England (effective July 1, 2007), France (effective 2008), Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Sweden and Uruguay.
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 4000 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, 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 from secondhand smoke.
The evidence is also clear that smoke-free laws protect health without harming business. As the U.S. 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.