Alaska’s Smokefree Workplace Law Has the Potential to Save Lives but Last Minute Big Tobacco Provision Threatens Public Health
May 21, 2018
As a result of years of tremendous grassroots and volunteer support, the Alaska state legislature recently enacted a law to expand smokefree workplace protections statewide. Currently, 43% of the state population is protected by strong 100% smokefree workplace, restaurant, and bar laws at the local level.
Unfortunately the bill was weakened at the last minute to include a “local opt out” provision. The “opt-out” language is not a new idea or a local idea. It is a policy scheme hatched by Big Tobacco in the late 1990s/early 2000s to undermine public health protections that would eliminate exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke and help reduce smoking rates. This flawed policy provision serves as an organizing structure for tobacco industry front groups and allies to undermine smokefree policies, divert public health resources, and prolong a sense of controversy on this important health policy issue. Tobacco industry front groups have peddled the “opt out” idea in numerous states over the years, but this is the first time it has made it into a statewide smokefree workplace law.
“Statewide smokefree laws should provide a strong floor of public health protection to everyone in the state – not cut holes in the floor for communities to fall through,” said Cynthia Hallett, ANR President and CEO. “People can’t opt out of breathing while in workplaces and public places.”
Everyone deserves the right to breathe smokefree air. Secondhand smoke is a top preventable cause of cardiovascular disease, stroke, lung disease, and cancer. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and the Environmental Protection Agency classified secondhand smoke as a human carcinogen 25 years ago.
100% SMOKEFREE WORKPLACE POLICIES ARE THE ONLY EFFECTIVE WAY TO ELIMINATE SECONDHAND SMOKE
Smokefree air has strong public support.
69% of Alaskans support a smokefree statewide law, with 72% wanting electronic smoking devices included in the law. 79% of residents also want marijuana smoking included.