N.Y. Mayor Announces 2002 New York Indoor Smoke-Free Air Act

New legislation announced yesterday by New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg expands the city's 1995 Smoke-Free Air Act by making bars, restaurants of any size, offices, pool halls, bingo parlors, bowling alleys and other indoor areas smoke-free.

"I am proud that New York City will be a national leader in tackling the most pressing public health issue facing New Yorkers and all Americans today: the devastating consequences of smoking," said Bloomberg as he announced yesterday announced the New York City Indoor Smoke-Free Air Act of 2002.

"No one should have to breathe poison to hold a job or frequent an indoor public space. I am particularly gratified to know that so many distinguished leaders in the fight for clean indoor air are here with me today to lend their support to this legislation to protect workers and the public," he added.

The mayor was joined in City Hall Park by Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH; Benjamin Chu, MD, president of the Health and Hospitals Corp.; City Council Minority Leader James Oddo; New York Mets pitcher Al Leiter; and the Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church. Surprisingly, several restaurant owners also joined the mayor, including Danny Meyer, owner of the Union Square Café; Michael O'Neal, owner of O'Neal's Restaurant; Louis Sloves, owner of Louie's Westside Café; Ellen Hart Sturm, owner of the Iridium Jazz Club, and Ellen's Café, as well as Tim Zagat of Zagat restaurant guides and other proprietors, union members, workers and leading health advocates.

"This bill represents a courageous step forward by the city on behalf of workers' rights and public health," said Oddo. "Study after study has shown the devastating effect of secondhand smoke. If New York City were to sit on the sidelines and not stand up for people who work in smoke-filled environments, we would be complicit in the tobacco industry's guilt."

Saying "Second-hand smoke kills," Frieden noted that "Just 30 minutes of exposure makes your blood clot and your arteries react the same way those of a chronic smoker do - and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Second-hand smoke causes more cancer deaths than asbestos, benzene, arsenic, pesticides, hazardous wastes sites, industrial chemicals, contaminated sludge and consumer products, combined. Second-hand smoke kills approximately 1,000 New York City residents every year. That is why we must act now."

The city cited studies showning that employees in bars and in restaurants where smoking is permitted have a 50 percent higher risk of lung cancer than other workers, even after taking their own smoking habits into account, and that working one eight-hour shift in smoky bar exposes one to the same amount of carcinogens as smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day.

"We were warned over and over in 1994 that many restaurants would go out of business if the Smoke-Free Air Act was enacted," said O'Neal, former president of the New York State Restaurant Association. "But after the law went into effect, the restaurant business in New York City boomed, tourism increased and the city's restaurant industry and employment grew significantly more than it did in the rest of the state, which by and large has not placed restrictions on smoking. Clean indoor air is vital for our employees' health, and it does not hurt profits."

This view is confirmed by statistics from other jurisdictions where clean indoor air legislation has been enacted. In California, where smoking has been prohibited in bars as well as restaurants since 1998, sales of beer, wine, and liquor in taverns increased in every quarter in 1998, 1999 and 2000, the last year for which such data is available.

Richard Toes, a New York City bartender, commented, "People who work in bars or restaurant bars don't want to go home at the end of the day smelling like an ashtray. More importantly, we don't want to increase our chances of getting cancer because we need to earn a living. It's easy for critics to say that if we don't want to work in a smoke-filled environment that we should just go work somewhere else, but finding another job isn't easy."

To contact the New York State Smokers' Quitline, call 1-888-609-6292.

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