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NAQC Newsroom: Tobacco Control

South Dakota ‘Yes’ Vote on Smoke-Free Law is Victory for Public Health

Tuesday, November 2, 2010  
Posted by: Natalia Gromov
Washington, D.C. – Nov. 2, 2010 – South Dakotans scored a major public health victory Tuesday night when voters overwhelmingly cast their ballots in favor of a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law. The new law will extend a restriction on indoor smoking to include all bars, restaurants, casinos and video lottery establishments, and give every worker the right to breathe smoke-free air on the job.

"South Dakota voters sent a clear message that they want to work in and patronize healthy, smoke-free environments,” said John R. Seffrin, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). "Smoke-free laws benefit everyone – workers can make a living without risking their health, patrons and tourists can enjoy time out without the hazards of secondhand smoke, and bar and restaurant owners can promote healthy environments. Everyone wins.”

ACS CAN was a leading advocate in support of South Dakota’s smoke-free law, which was supposed to take effect in July 2009 but was delayed after opponents referred it to the ballot. The law will now take effect Nov. 10 following the Secretary of State’s certification of election results.

Of particular note, South Dakota’s 100 percent smoke-free law includes all state regulated gaming facilities, making it the 16th state, along with Puerto Rico, to have done so. Casino and food service workers have a significantly higher risk of dying from lung cancer than the general public, due in part to their continuous exposure to secondhand smoke. Strong smoke-free laws that include every workplace, including casinos, restaurants and bars, are the only effective way to protect all workers and the public from the health hazards of secondhand smoke. For example, hospitality workers experienced an 89 percent decline in workplace secondhand smoke exposure just five months after New York’s smoke-free law went into effect.

"Cancer advocates are committed to working community by community and state by state until every worker in America is protected from secondhand smoke through comprehensive smoke-free laws,” said Christopher W. Hansen, president of ACS CAN. "Smoke-free laws and other strong tobacco control policies are crucial to reversing the trend that has made smoking the leading preventable cause of death in this country.”

The national smoke-free trend has accelerated in recent years. South Dakota is the 23rd state, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, to pass a statewide comprehensive smoke-free law which requires 100 percent smoke-free workplaces, including bars and restaurants. Across the United States, 21,838 municipalities are covered by a 100 percent smokefree provision in workplaces, and/or restaurants, and/or bars, by a state, commonwealth, or local law, representing 79 percent of the US population.

Secondhand smoke is a major health hazard, proven to cause lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. With 4,000 substances and more than 50 carcinogens – including arsenic and polonium – secondhand smoke causes cancer, heart, and lung disease and kills nearly 50,000 nonsmoking Americans each year, including 3,400 deaths from lung cancer.

The use of tobacco products remains the nation’s number one cause of preventable death, killing approximately 443,000 Americans and costing $96 billion in direct health care costs each year.

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org .

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