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Virginia Governor Takes A Stand For Health By Vetoing Weak Smoke-Free Bill

Armen Hareyan's picture

Smoking in Virginia

Governor Tim Kaine took an important stand for the health of Virginians today by vetoing legislation that would have weakened Virginia's already ineffectual protections against secondhand smoke and allow continued smoking in restaurants and other workplaces.

This weak legislation would have done nothing to protect the right of workers and the public to breathe clean, smoke-free air. We urge Governor Kaine and supportive legislators to continue to fight for a real smoke-free law that would make all Virginia restaurants smoke-free. We also urge Virginia voters to remember how their legislators voted on this critical issue and to cast their own vote for the right to breathe clean air.

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It is disappointing that the Legislature last week did not approve Governor Kaine's proposed amendments that would have made all restaurants in Virginia smoke-free and protected workers and the public from the serious health hazards of secondhand smoke. Last week's vote willfully ignored both the overwhelming evidence that secondhand smoke causes premature death and serious disease and the overwhelming public support for smoke-free environments.

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, 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, only smoke-free laws provide effective protection from secondhand smoke, and smoke-free laws protect health without harming business.

That's why 18 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have enacted strong smoke-free laws that include all workplaces and public places. It's long past time for Virginia to take action to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air.