Restaurants should go smoke-free in December

Published 9:26 pm Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To the editor:

The air is about to clear in Virginia on December 1. Is Suffolk ready?

On Dec. 1, Virginia will implement a new law that restricts smoking but allows restaurants to have separately ventilated smoking rooms. I ask that all restaurants go completely smoke-free, rather than create smoking rooms, so they do not put the health of any employee or customer at risk by subjecting them to hazardous secondhand smoke.

No one should have to put themselves at risk of a heart attack, lung cancer or other serious diseases caused by secondhand smoke in order to earn a paycheck or enjoy a night out. Virginia restaurants should seize the opportunity to protect the health of their workers and customers by going completely smoke-free.

Across the country, a growing number of states and communities have proven that smoke-free laws are very popular with the public, easy to implement and protect health without harming business. It is time for all Virginia restaurants and workplaces to join this movement and go completely smoke-free.

In 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General stated in a groundbreaking report on secondhand smoke, “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 carcinogens. The Surgeon General found that secondhand smoke causes heart disease, lung cancer, serious respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome.

The Surgeon General also found that secondhand smoke is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year.

There is no safe level of exposure and smoke-free laws protect health without harming business.

On Dec. 1, the air will clear in the Old Dominion, and we will continue our efforts to protect the health of more Virginians.