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News Summary

Strong smoke-free laws are spreading across the country, but in the Alabama Legislature, they may not be going anywhere

Publication Date: 2011-04-27
  • Author:Birmingham News editorial board
  • Publication:Birmingham (AL) News

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report last week that shows there is strong momentum around the country to pass smoke-free laws that protect workers and the public from the health hazards of secondhand smoke.

But whatever is inspiring all those states across the nation apparently has skipped Alabama. Instead of "strong momentum," bills in the Legislature to regulate smoking are in slow mo.

Two bills are waiting, one in the House sponsored by Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, and another in the Senate sponsored by Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile.

McClurkin dropped her comprehensive smoke-free bill into the hopper on the second full day of the legislative session, way back in early March. HB 149 has been sitting in the House Health Committee ever since.

Figures waited a bit, introducing her comprehensive bill in early April. SB 372 at least is on today's agenda for the Senate Health Committee.

Both bills would enact essentially the same restrictions on smoking: prohibit smoking in all workplaces, restaurants and bars, along with many other public places. They are strong, but these laws are very much needed.

Secondhand smoke is a killer. The science is not in dispute any longer. The CDC report notes that exposure to secondhand smoke "causes lung cancer and cardiovascular and respiratory diseases in nonsmoking adults and children, resulting in an estimated 46,000 heart disease deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths among U.S. nonsmoking adults each year."

The building momentum to pass smoke-free laws has led 25 states and the District of Columbia to pass comprehensive laws over the past decade. These laws ban smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars, and are mainly designed to protect workers as much as visitors.

Another nine states prohibit smoking in two of the locations, usually workplaces and restaurants.

Alabama is among the eight states that have some restrictions on smoking, but nothing which substantially protects nonsmokers from inhaling somebody else's smoke.