Smoke-free advocates urge legislators to pass statewide law

MONTGOMERY, AL., -- American Cancer Society volunteers and staff gathered at the State House today to urge state legislators to pass a comprehensive statewide smoke-free workplace during the 2009 legislative session.

"We came further than ever last session to protecting workers from the dangers of secondhand smoke," said Maryann Upchurch, the American Cancer Society's State Vice President for Alabama. "Today, we're back to tell our elected leaders that we have not given up. Everyone has the right to breathe smoke-free air."

Sen. Vivian Figures, a long-time supporter and sponsor of smoke-free legislation, promised to introduce a new bill early in the session, which starts Tuesday, February 3. Dr. Donald E. Williamson, Alabama's Public Health Officer, said smoke-free laws benefit both health and business.

"Evidence from peer-reviewed studies shows that smoke-free policies and regulations do not have an adverse economic impact on the hospitality industry." Williamson said, citing the 2006 U.S. Surgeon General's report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke.

A poll released before the 2008 session showed that 78 percent of likely voters in Alabama support a statewide smoke-free workplace law. The poll also showed that 79 percent of likely voters believe the government has a responsibility to promote and protect public health. Ninety-five percent of respondents view secondhand smoke as some level of health hazard.

"The message should be loud and clear to legislators that their constituents support a smoke-free Alabama," Upchurch said. "It's time to make Alabama smoke free.

The American Cancer Society supports smoke-free workplace measures because they are effective weapons in the fight against cancer.