This afternoon, I attended the press conference held by Sen. Brandon Bell (R-Roanoke) to promote his Indoor Clean Air Act. After hearing what he had to say, I think I’m convinced. Here are some of the interesting things that I learned:
- One thousand Virginian die because of secondhand smoke each year.
- Every eight smokers that dies kills one non-smoker.
- Secondhand smoke contains over 200 poisons, of which 70 cause cancer.
- Of American SIDS deaths, 2,500 are attributed to secondhand smoke.
- One million asthma attacks are caused by secondhand smoke each year.
But there were two factors that I found particularly persuasive with regard to the importance of this bill. The first was that nagging question of why in the world we’d ban smoking in bars. The reason is because, famously, there are no bars in Virginia. Only restaurants. And changing those laws is way outside of the scope of some smoking law. The second was the point that the primary purpose of this bill is not to protect the general public, but to protect employees. Anybody who works in a smoky environment for years will inevitably suffer health consequences. Many restaurant owners are concerned about this — particularly large chains, who well know they’re a lawsuit target — but no restaurant wants to be the first to ban smoking. This bill will protect restaurants from legal liability and, more important, restaurants’ employees from injury or death.
I understand that this bill will have a crucial subcommittee vote tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon, after it’s heard by the Committee on General Laws. I certainly hope that anybody interested in seeing this bill pass will find the time to attend that subcommittee meeting in mid-afternoon.