Let smoking ban follow Smokeout

Published 9:13 pm Tuesday, November 18, 2008

On Thursday, the American Cancer Society will celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the Great American Smokeout. For millions of American smokers, there has never been a better time to stop smoking.

As a former smoker, I have learned that living a healthy life means living smoke-free. There are smoking cessation programs and resources available through the American Cancer Society to anyone who wishes to kick this habit.

In addition to encouraging smokers to quit, the Great American Smokeout is about protecting all Americans from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. In fact, studies have shown that secondhand smoke is responsible for 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually and another 35,000 to 45,000 deaths from heart disease in otherwise healthy non-smokers.

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Virginia legislators have the power to protect our citizens by passing a comprehensive smoke-free law so that we all can breathe smoke-free air. Smoke-free laws not only help protect workers and patrons from exposure to deadly secondhand smoke, but they also help smokers quit.

Both Sen. Fred Quayle and Del. Chris Jones have supported a comprehensive smoke-free bill in the past. Unfortunately, House Speaker William J. Howell has been an opponent of this legislation, even though most Virginians want such a bill.

I hope that when the General Assembly reconvenes in January, our legislators will once again lend their support to a comprehensive smoke-free law that protects Virginia workers 24 hours a day from the effects of secondhand smoke.