PA Air Unprotected by Current Law

(January 31, 2012)


Current Clean Indoor Air Law in PA Leaves Thousands Unprotected

Exemptions to PA’s Clean Indoor Air law creates unhealthy, unfair working environment


Harrisburg, Penn.“My mother has never smoked a day in her life,” says Macungie photographer Ryan Olszeski.  “But because she was exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace, she is now fighting for her life with stage four lung cancer. No one should have to put their health on the line to earn a paycheck. No one.”    Ryan Olszeski‘s mother, is paying a high price for working in an environment where smoking was permitted.  Like the majority of all Pennsylvanians, Olszeski believes Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act should not have any exemptions so all workers are protected equally from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Deb Brown, president and CEO of American Lung Association of Mid Atlantic, acknowledges that the Clean Indoor Air Act implemented in 2008 was a huge victory for most Pennsylvanians, but points out that it still fails dismally when it comes to protecting the thousands of people who work in the state’s casinos, taverns, some restaurant/bars and private clubs.

“By passing the Clean Indoor Air Act, Pennsylvania joined the growing list of states that have passed laws to protect residents and visitors from the devastating health effects of secondhand smoke,” says Brown.  “But the law does not go far enough. Pennsylvania needs a comprehensive clean indoor air law that protects all citizens equally. Casinos, taverns and private club owners successfully lobbied legislators for an exemption, despite strong public opposition. There are currently over 2,800 exemptions to Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act. “

Sen. Stewart J.  Greenleaf (R-Montgomery) has introduced a bill calling for a more comprehensive legislation that would cut the exemptions in the current law.   “This Bill deserves the legislators support,” says Brown. “Pennsylvanians trust their representatives to do the right thing when it comes to protecting their health.”

“Secondhand smoke kills six Pennsylvanians a day. When that death toll starts to include a higher percentage of casino and club employees, nobody should be surprised,” says Brown. According to Brown, casino workers are especially at risk. A 2007 report, on the air quality in the state’s casinos by renowned secondhand smoke scientist James Repace, concluded that nearly 300 nonsmoking Pennsylvanian casino employees will die from lung cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses caused by secondhand smoke, at a rate of around 8 deaths per year.

“Do we really have to let 300 nonsmokers die because of secondhand smoke before we pass a more inclusive, comprehensive clean indoor air law?,”   asks Brown.

According to the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2012 report released January 19, 2012, Pennsylvania received a passing grade in some areas, but fell short in others to protect children and adults and curb tobacco-related disease in 2011.  Pennsylvania earned an “F” in Tobacco Prevention and Control Spending and Cessation Coverage, a “C” in Smokefree Air and a “C” in Cigarette Tax. “We need to do better,” says Brown.

Public support for a more comprehensive clean indoor air law has been consistently high. A 2011 survey reported that an overwhelming majority of Pennsylvanian voters support a comprehensive clean indoor air law.

The science is not new - in June 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General  declared that secondhand smoke is one of the main, preventable factors contributing to work-related cancers and cardiovascular disease. Exposure to secondhand smoke results in an estimated 38,000 deaths per year in the U.S. and over one million illnesses in children. In a 2010 World Health Organization study, secondhand smoke was blamed for 603,000 deaths globally.

“We implore our legislators to support Senator Greenleaf and pass a more comprehensive Clean Indoor Air bill soon so all Pennsylvania workers are protected, especially those in casinos and private clubs,” says Brown.  “How can our policy makers’ sanction exposing hard working Pennsylvanians to secondhand smoke that we know contains several thousand chemicals, including 200 poisons, over 50 of them causing cancer?  We can’t fail the citizens of Pennsylvania.  We need to work together to remove tobacco’s chokehold on our health.  It’s a life-and-death matter.”

 Additional Resources

  • State of Tobacco Control in PA 2012 (
  • “Secondhand smoke is a known cause of lung cancer, heart disease, chronic lung ailments such as bronchitis and asthma (particularly in children), and low birth-weight births.” (
  • “Exposure to secondhand smoke has been estimated to result in at least 38,000 annual deaths in the United States and over one million illnesses in children.” (
  • A study, The Economic Impact of Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act (2011), confirmed that there was no evidence of a negative economic impact on Pennsylvania businesses due to the enactment of the Clean Indoor Air law. (
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2004, issued a warning that all people at risk for heart disease should avoid all indoor places that allow smoking because short-term exposure to secondhand smoke creates an increased risk of heart attacks. (
  • Although the Pennsylvania Clean Indoor Air Act makes an exception for some workplaces that have separate ventilation systems for smoking and non-smoking sections, The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, in the summer of 2005, issued this statement: "At present, the only means of effectively eliminating health risks associated with indoor exposure is to ban smoking activity. No other engineering approaches, including current and advanced dilution ventilation or air cleaning technologies, have demonstrated or should be relied upon to control health risks from ETS [environmental tobacco smoke] exposure in spaces where smoking occurs.” (