The organization on March 10 gave Ohio lawmakers an ultimatum: Ban smoking before May 3 -- the date of primary elections in the Buckeye State -- or the group will begin a grassroots campaign to collect 100,000 signatures, which it would to submit to state legislators next January to put a smoke-free ordinance before the General Assembly.
"Right now, the American Cancer Society is working to change Ohio's future," said Don McClure, chief executive officer of the Ohio Division of the American Cancer Society. "We are asking for your help to make Ohio smoke-free. Help stop Ohioans from dying from second-hand smoke. Help protect every Ohio worker and customer."
If Ohio lawmakers fail to snuff out smoking or try to dilute the law, the American Cancer Society says it will collect another 100,000 signatures to put the smoke-free ordinance on the ballot in November 2006.
"We support a state law that states one simple fact: You have a right to breathe clean air," McClure said.
The American Cancer Society cites a growing body of evidence that second-hand smoke poses serious health risks to non-smokers.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in a recent report placed second-hand cigarette smoke in the same category as radon, asbestos, arsenic and other cancer-causing toxins and concluded there are no safe exposure levels for second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke increasingly is being linked to lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses and diseases.
The American Cancer Society also cites research conducted by the advocacy group Tobacco-Free Ohio that suggests bars, restaurants and other businesses in Toledo -- one of 14 Ohio cities with a smoking ban already in place -- have suffered little or no economic impact as a result of the indoor smoking ban.
The American Cancer Society says it will be joined in its SmokeFreeOhio.org campaign by the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association and other health advocacy groups.