71% of Washington Voters Oppose Special Rule to Allow Cigar Smoking in Bars and Restaurants

(January 10, 2012)

Contact:
Carrie Nyssen
American Lung Association in Washington
360-921-1484
cnyssen@lungmtpacific.org

71% of Washington Voters Oppose Special Rule to Allow Cigar Smoking in Bars and Restaurants
Voters reject effort to undermine law that protects families from secondhand smoke

Seattle, WA—-A new statewide poll released today shows 71 percent of Washington voters oppose creating a loophole in the voter-approved 2005 Clean Indoor Air Act to allow cigar smoking in bars, restaurants and some retail stores.  The poll was conducted by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), American Heart Association and the American Lung Association of the Mountain Pacific.  It was funded with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“The current clean indoor air law is working to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean air,” said Carrie Nyssen, Regional Director of Advocacy and Air Quality for American Lung Association of Washington. “Secondhand smoke is a proven health hazard. It doesn’t make sense to change current standards to allow cigar smoking in public places and workplaces.”

The proposed weakening of the law was initially put forward in 2011, and will likely be debated in the upcoming 2012 session.  Public health groups have consistently objected to both the creation of a special set of exemptions—just for cigar smokers—as well as the public health impacts of re-introducing secondhand smoke into workplaces and public places.

“This loophole would undermine the point of the law: to protect workers and the public equally from all types of smoking risks,” said Erin Dziedzic, Government Relations Director for American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.  “Weakening our clean indoor air laws by allowing cigar smoking would reintroduce cancer-causing substances into our public spaces, which means we’re putting workers and customers at risk.”

The poll also found that Washington voters strongly support the Clean Indoor Air Act and recognize the importance of maintaining a smoke-free environment inside workplaces and public spaces.  Other key findings from the survey include:
• 84 percent support the Clean Indoor Air Act – the current law that prohibits smoking inside all public places, workplaces, bars and restaurants in Washington state
• 92 percent believe all workers should be protected from exposure to secondhand smoke
• 94 percent feel that restaurants and bars are healthier for customers and employees now that they are smoke-free

Some bar and restaurant owners, originally skeptical the Clean Indoor Air Act might hurt business, have come to appreciate its merits and now warn against rolling it back.
 
“I might have worked in a bar that allowed smoking, but I didn’t like it.  I hated going home smelling like cigarettes,” said Patrick McAleese, owner of Kells Irish Restaurant and Pub. “Bars are cleaner, customers and staff are happier and healthier since the Clean Indoor Air Act went into effect.  We’re all better off. But it will be a slippery slope to open up smoking for cigar shops.  Legislators would be foolish to create loopholes in such a popular law.”

“If this special rule is approved, smoking will be allowed in tobacco stores, strip malls and other shared buildings where families and children will be exposed to smoke,” said Beverly May, Director of Western Region, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.  “That is the complete opposite of what the law was supposed to do.”

“We’ve seen a decline in cardiovascular disease when Clean Indoor Air Acts go into effect around the country,” said Lucy Culp, Senior Government Relations Director for American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.  “For the health of all Washingtonians, we urge lawmakers to respect the 84 percent of Washingtonians who support clean indoor air for all.”

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The poll, performed by EMC Research in Seattle, was conducted by landline and cell phone December 12-18, 2011 among a random sample of 500 voters in Washington State.  The poll sampled registered voters with a history of voting in recent elections or who had recently registered to vote.  Voters were screened for likely participation in the November 2012 general election.  To assure that the data are representative of the population, the results were checked against expected November 2012 turnout and weighted by key demographics when necessary based on EMC's projection of a likely November 2012 turnout.  Overall results have a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.