Florida Voters Say Yes to Smoke-Free Workplaces

Florida voters yesterday overwhelmingly approved Amendment 6, the Smoke-Free for Health initiative. The initiative is widely seen by many as the most progressive public health initiative in Florida history.

"The people of Florida have spoken loud and clear, and they have said: We have a right to breathe smoke-free air," said Martin Larsen, volunteer chairman of Smoke-Free for Health.

The amendment's prime sponsors the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and American Lung Association provided volunteers for the get-out-the-vote effort. More than 130 other organizations and individuals, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, AARP, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, NAACP, Center for Florida's Children and the Florida Medical Association formally endorsed the measure.

The wide appeal of Amendment 6 was evident as even smokers voiced their support for it. "I've smoked cigarettes my entire adult life but non-smokers need protection from secondhand smoke," said George Green after voting for Amendment 6 in Volusia County. "It's an idea whose time has come."

Amendment 6 officially becomes part of the Florida Constitution on Jan. 7, 2003. The state legislature must enact implementing legislation to enforce compliance effective no later than July 1, 2003. In the meantime, affected businesses should start preparing to comply with the amendment as soon as possible.

"In the vast majority of cases, business owners will simply need to remove ash trays and post no-smoking signs in their facilities," said Larsen. "Most people will be surprised at just how easy the adjustment will be, and by this time next year the only question will be, 'Why didn't we do this sooner?'"

Stand-alone bars, retail tobacco shops, smoking rooms in hotels and motels, and private homes not used for commercial health or child care are exempt from the measure.

California has had fairly tough laws prohibiting cigarette smoking in indoor workplaces since 1990. Researchers at the Rebecca and John Moores University of California-San Diego Cancer Center report that California's legislation is proving effective at reducing the amount of exposure to secondhand smoke among adult workers.

"Over the past decade, Californians have reported steadily decreasing exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace, as well as increased smoke-free home environments, which indicates that clean air legislation combined with education is making an impact," said the study's principal author, Elizabeth A. Gilpin, M.S.

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