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House Health & Human Services Committee: Testimony in Support of Smoke-free Workplaces

To:  House Health and Human Services Committee

From:  James Browning, Director

Date:  May 31, 2007

 

Chairman
Oliver and members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to
speak to you about expanding smoke-free workplace laws in Pennsylvania. 

By way of introduction, I recently led the campaign for smoke-free
workplaces in Maryland as Director of the American Cancer Society’s
Clean Indoor Air Campaign, and chair of the statewide coalition of
groups supporting smoke-free legislation in Maryland.  I also served as
Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland, and wrote numerous reports
on the role of campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures by
tobacco companies in shaping public policy.

 

Health Issues

Last summer, U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona issued a comprehensive
scientific report which concludes that there is no risk-free level of
exposure to secondhand smoke.  The report finds that even brief
secondhand smoke exposure can cause immediate harm, and concludes that
the only way to protect nonsmokers from the dangerous chemicals in
secondhand smoke is to eliminate smoking indoors.  For this reason,
PennPIRG supports a ban on smoking in restaurants, bars, private clubs,
and casinos.

 

Ventilation Issues

Can ventilation protect workers from the effects of secondhand smoke
exposure?  According to a 2005 position paper by the American Society of
Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE):

“No engineering approaches, including current and advanced dilution
ventilation or air cleaning technologies, have been demonstrated or
should be relied upon to control health risks from ETS [environmental
tobacco smoke] exposure in spaces where smoking occurs.”

ASHRAE concluded:

“At present, the only means of effectively eliminating health risk
associated with indoor exposure [to secondhand smoke] is to ban smoking
activity.” 

 

Economic Issues

Tobacco companies have long predicted ruin for smokefree restaurants and bars,
but newly released, internal documents show their lack of confidence in
their own predictions.  As far back as 1994, Philip Morris marketing and
sales director David Laufer compared the industries attempts to
generate opposition to smoke-free bars and restaurants to its failed
attempts to convince people that smokers would not fly on smoke-free
airlines or attend events at smoke-free stadiums:

“...economic arguments often used by the [tobacco] industry to scare off smoking ban
activity are no longer working, if indeed they ever did. These arguments
simply had no credibility with the public, which isn't surprising when
you consider our dire predictions in the past rarely came true.”

Indeed, a study from that same year found no negative economic impact on bars
and restaurant profits in the first 15 American cities to ban smoking in
these establishments.[1] 
Since then other studies of smoke-free establishments in New York,
California, and other states have found that smoke-free laws have not
harmed, and have even boosted profits, for smoke-free establishments.

More broadly, secondhand smoke exposure has a profound effect on health care
and other economic costs.  In 2005, I collaborated with Dr. Hugh Waters
of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health on a study of the nearly
$600 million economic impact of secondhand smoke exposure in Maryland,
covering higher health care costs, and costs due to premature mortality
and decreased worker productivity.  Specifically, the study found that
secondhand smoke exposure was responsible for

  • 1,577 adult deaths
  • 24 child deaths
  • Costs due to childhood illness and death--$73.8 million.
  • Costs due to adult illness and death--$523.8 million.

Secondhand smoke-exposure also has a major economic impact in
Pennsylvania—reducing worker productivity, increasing health care costs
for businesses and individuals, and contributing to soaring Medicaid
costs.  According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, here are these
costs for our state.

Smoking-Caused Monetary Costs in Pennsylvania

Annual health care costs in Pennsylvania directly caused by smoking

$5.19 billion

- Portion covered by the state Medicaid program
$1.7 billion

Residents' state & federal tax burden from smoking-caused government expenditures
$680 per household

Smoking-caused productivity losses in Pennsylvania
$4.63 billion

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