Testimony on Positive Impact of Smoke-Free Workplace Legislation Given in Two Days of Committee Hearings

Witnesses from around the state highlight bill benefits

Senate Bill 355 and House Bill 670 propose a statewide smoke-free workplace law

Mar 03, 2011, 15:59 ET from Smoke-Free Texas

AUSTIN, March 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- This week, smoke-free workplace bills were heard in the Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services and the Texas House Committee on Public Health. Both committees left the bills pending, which is common in the legislative process.

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Numerous individuals including business owners, musicians, organization representatives and others provided testimony in favor of the bills. Many of these individuals have experienced the dangerous effects of secondhand smoke exposure first hand.

"From my perspective as a researcher in the field of public health, I understand the need for a statewide smoke-free workplace law not only for the sake of customers and employees, but for the Texas economy," said Phil Huang, MD, MPH, in both hearings. "This statewide law could truly make a positive health and economic impact on our state."

Senate Bill 355 and House Bill 670, authored by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton) respectively, are a result of bipartisan consensus reached after several years of collaboration among many lawmakers and stakeholders.

"I've never smoked a cigarette in my life, nor does anyone in my household, but I got lung cancer because of secondhand smoke exposure in the jobs I worked during and after college," said Trena Stafford, Texas Parent Teacher Association volunteer, in both hearings. "Secondhand smoke has truly hurt me and my family."

Secondhand smoke kills 46,000 Americans due to heart disease and 3,400 Americans due to lung cancer every year. In fact, it is the third leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and is a known cause of lung cancer, heart disease, premature birth and low birth weight and other health problems. Texas lawmakers now have the opportunity to decrease the impact of these health problems for all Texans.

Momentum for this important legislation continues to grow as the Legislative Session progresses. A 2011 statewide poll indicates 70 percent of Texas voters surveyed support a statewide smoke-free workplace law and a new secondhand smoke economic study shows $404 million in savings to the Texas economy over the biennium. Nearly two-thirds of Republican primary voters surveyed support a statewide smoke-free workplace law.

"Having been a professional musician for the past 40 years, the most difficult aspect of my job has always been the noxious smoke so ubiquitous in nightclubs and bars," wrote Natalie Zoe, professional musician. "I look so forward to the day I can book gigs anywhere and everywhere in Texas with impunity knowing I can manage to go out and make a living doing what I do without endangering my delicate and precious lungs. What a miserable trade off it has been trading my ability to breathe for my ability to make a living."

It is important to note that more than 5.5 million Texans living in unincorporated or rural areas of the state cannot be covered by smoke-free legislation because they live in areas of the state that do not have a local government that can pass or enforce this type of legislation. A comprehensive statewide smoke-free workplace law is the only way to protect all Texas employees and customers from secondhand smoke exposure.

Smoke-free workplace legislation has proven to either have no impact or a positive impact on businesses in Texas and throughout the U.S. A 2003 study that provided a comprehensive evaluation of all available studies on the economic impact of smoke-free workplace legislation concluded that these studies report no impact or a positive impact on sales or employment.

"A statewide smoke-free workplace law would benefit businesses all around the state," said John Korioth, owner of SIX Lounge and Hanger Bar in Austin at a Smoke-Free Texas event last week. "The law would positively impact employees' morale and productivity, and customers will appreciate going home wearing clothes that don't stink of cigarette smoke."

Twenty-nine other states and 34 Texas cities have enacted comprehensive smoke-free legislation similar to Senate Bill 355 and House Bill 670. A statewide smoke-free workplace law would provide clean indoor air to all 25 million Texans: 5.6 percent of the U.S. population.

"A statewide smoke-free workplace law would improve the health of Texas employees and customers," said Joel Romo, senior director of government relations for American Heart Association. "Without a statewide law, millions of Texans will remain susceptible to the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure, and business owners and employees will miss out on the economic benefits the law would bring."

Smoke-Free Texas is a broad coalition of organizations who believe all Texas employees have the right to breathe clean indoor air. Because science tells us that secondhand smoke kills, we support a statewide law to protect Texans from the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure in the workplace. Our members include the American Cancer Society, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, LIVESTRONG and the Texas Parent Teacher Association. Visit our website for more information at www.smokefreetexas.org.  Visit us on Facebook and Twitter at www.Facebook.com/SmokeFreeTexas and www.Twitter.com/SmokeFreeTexas.

SOURCE Smoke-Free Texas