Saying Massachusetts’ workers deserve to breathe clean air on the job, Governor Mitt Romney today signed into law a landmark measure that bans smoking in the workplace beginning on July 5, 2004.
“Today, we can all breathe a little easier,” said Romney, who was joined at the historic State House bill signing by Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, members of the Legislature, advocates and children. “Everyone has the right to breathe clean air and be free of secondhand smoke, especially our kids.”
With the passage of the new statewide smoking ban, Massachusetts joins five other states in protecting workers from health hazards resulting from exposure to secondhand smoke. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, secondhand smoke is a Class A carcinogen that kills an estimated 53,000 nonsmokers each year in the United States. In the Bay State, more than 1,000 deaths are attributable to secondhand smoke exposure each year.
“The significance of this new law cannot be understated,” said Healey. “The next generation of workers in the Bay State – our children – will never have to work in a smoke-filled workplace.”
All workplaces in the Commonwealth that have one or more employees must be smoke-free as of July 5, 2004. The legislation creates a number of exemptions from the law, including private membership clubs and “smoking” or “cigar” bars.
“This is a landmark day for workers in Massachusetts, and we applaud the Legislature, Governor Romney and Lieutenant Governor Healey for clearing the air,” said Dr. Gena Carter, Vice Chair of Tobacco Free Mass. “No longer will an employee’s chosen career or where he or she works require them to breathe in a known carcinogen.”
The workplace is the primary source of secondhand smoke exposure for adult non-smokers in the United States. Levels of secondhand smoke in restaurants are about 160 percent to 200 percent higher than in office workplaces. Levels in bars are 400 percent to 600 percent higher than in office workplaces. As a result, restaurant and bar workers are one-and-a-half to two times more likely to die of lung cancer than they would be if their workplaces were 100 percent smoke-free.
“Massachusetts is making smoking history with the passage of this law to prohibit smoking in most workplaces across the state,” said Senator Richard T. Moore, Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care. “I commend my colleagues who worked to pass the law as well as the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards and other organizations that advocated for the law.”
Representative Rachel Kaprielian, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said, “This is clearly a win-win for Massachusetts. Workers will no longer suffer the lethal consequences of secondhand smoke; businesses can compete on a level playing field; and we can all breathe a clean sigh of relief that our hard work has finally paid off. The public health of Massachusetts has just been vastly improved.”
Massachusetts is the sixth state to go smoke-free, joining New York, Connecticut, Maine, Delaware and California. More than 100 cities and towns in the Commonwealth already have smoke-free regulations.
The Department of Public Health has been actively working on an implementation plan for the new law. A toll-free number has been established at 800-992-1895 for businesses to contact with questions about how the law applies to their workplace.
Funds from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be used to coordinate a public information campaign to educate business owners, workers and the general public on the new law.
Information for business owners, including fact sheets, “no smoking” signs and a guide for implementation of the smoke-free workplace law will be available at www.mass.gov/dph/mtcp. Training and technical assistance will be available for local boards of health. Six information sessions to discuss the law, resources and enforcement issues have been scheduled.
As required by the new law, the Department of Public Health will create a commission to assist in the effective implementation and compliance of the smoking ban.
The commission will include representatives from the business community, local boards of health, public health organizations and state government.
“The passage of the smoke-free workplace law is a victory for the public health of all Massachusetts workers,” said Public Health Commissioner Christy Ferguson. “The passage of this law will ensure that all Massachusetts workers, whether they wear a blue collar, a white collar or no collar at all, will no longer be exposed to the dangers of second-hand smoke while they are on the job.”