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Ad Campaign Urges Pennsylvania Lawmakers to Stop Waffling and Pass Comprehensive Smoke-Free Law
Date:3/5/2008

WASHINGTON, March 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund today launched a newspaper and radio advertising campaign urging key Pennsylvania lawmakers to stop waffling and pass a comprehensive smoke-free law that applies to all workplaces and protects all Pennsylvanians from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

The newspaper advertisements, which begin this week in papers across Pennsylvania, feature photos of six key legislators with a warning to readers that the lawmakers' decisions on pending smoke-free legislation "may be hazardous to your health." The radio advertisements, which begin today, call on the lawmakers to "stop waffling" on this important legislation, and urge Pennsylvanians to contact their legislators and ask them to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air. To view and listen to the ads, go to http://tobaccofreeaction.org/pa2008/.

The six lawmakers mentioned in the advertisements are:

-- House Majority Leader Bill DeWeese (D-Greene)

-- House Minority Leader Sam Smith (R-Jefferson)

-- Senator Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks)

-- Senate Minority Leader Robert Mellow (D-Lackawanna)

-- Representative Robert Belfanti (D-Northumberland)

-- Representative Ron Miller (R-York)

Four of the legislators -- Sens. McIlhinney and Mellow, and Reps. Belfanti and Miller -- are members of a conference committee that will conduct hearings next week to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of smoke-free legislation. All four have refused to support comprehensive legislation that covers all workplaces, including restaurants, bars and casinos, and repeals current law that prohibits most local governments from enacting smoke-free laws.

House Leaders DeWeese and Smith also have refused to support comprehensive smoke-free legislation and - through their leadership positions - have delayed the convening of the conference committee.

Although comprehensive smoke-free legislation was approved by the House on July 16, 2007, after the Senate approved loophole-filled legislation on June 26, 2007, the conference committee has yet to take action. After months of delay, the committee has scheduled public hearings on the legislation for March 10 and 13.

"Pennsylvanians deserve to know that these legislators are standing in the way of their right to breathe clean air," said William V. Corr, Executive Director of the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund. "Pennsylvania lawmakers face a clear choice. By enacting a comprehensive smoke-free law for all workplaces, they can ensure that no one has to choose between their health and their paycheck. If they fail to pass such a law, they will continue to put Pennsylvanians at risk of lung cancer, heart disease and other serious illnesses caused by secondhand smoke."

Last year, the Pennsylvania House approved comprehensive smoke-free legislation that covers restaurants, bars and casinos. However, the Senate approved loophole-filled legislation that failed to protect all workers and would exempt casinos, some restaurants and bars, nursing homes and other adult-care centers, and even small home-based daycare centers. The Senate bill would also overturn existing local smoke-free laws and prohibit local governments from enacting stronger smoke-free laws in the future.

Facts about Secondhand Smoke:

Secondhand smoke is a serious public health hazard. In issuing a landmark report on secondhand smoke in June 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General stated, "The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard that causes premature death and disease in children and nonsmoking adults." Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including at least 69 known to cause cancer. According to the Surgeon General, secondhand smoke is proven to cause lung cancer, heart disease, serious respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and asthma, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. It is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the United States each year. The Surgeon General also found that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke; the only way to protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke is with comprehensive smoke-free workplaces and public places; and smoke-free laws do not hurt business.

-- Pennsylvanians deserve the same protections from secondhand smoke - and the same right to breathe clean air - that more than half of all Americans already have. Twenty-three states and Washington, DC, have passed smoke-free laws that include restaurants and bars, and in many cases casinos as well. These states include almost all of Pennsylvania's neighbors.

-- Pennsylvanians strongly support a comprehensive smoke-free law. In a May 2007 poll, 84 percent of Pennsylvania voters agreed that all workers should be protected from secondhand smoke. In addition, 86 percent of voters said restaurants and bars would be healthier for customers and employees if they were smoke-free. The Pennsylvania Restaurant Association has also endorsed a comprehensive, statewide smoke-free workplace law, as have numerous newspaper editorials across the state.

The Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund is a non-partisan 501(c)(4) non-profit organization that works to reduce the devastating toll of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke by mounting education, advocacy and electoral campaigns to support anti-tobacco policies. The Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund is affiliated with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. For more information, visit http://www.tobaccofreeaction.org


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SOURCE Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund
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