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New York City Seal
Press Release
NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
Office of Communications
CONTACT: Edward Skyler/ Jordan Barowitz
Sandra Mullin (DOHMH)
Monday, August 12, 2002
(212) 788-2958
(212) 788-5290 (DOHMH)


Proposed Legislation Will Expand 1995 Smoking Law To Protect All Workers from Second-Hand Smoke

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced the New York City Indoor Smoke-Free Air Act of 2002. The Mayor was joined in City Hall Park by Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH; President of the Health and Hospitals Corporation, Benjamin Chu, MD; City Council Minority Leader James Oddo; New York Mets pitcher Al Leiter; Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, Pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church; Tim Zagat of Zagat restaurant guides; Danny Meyer, owner of the Union Square Café; Michael O'Neal, owner of O'Neal's Restaurant; Louis Sloves, owner of Louie's Westside Café; Ellen Hart Sturm, owner of the Iridium Jazz Club, and Ellen's Stardust Diner, and other proprietors, union members, workers, and leading health advocates, including New York City's medical schools, the American Lung Association, American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, community organizations, advocates and hundreds of supporters. (A list of participants is attached.)

The legislation will expand the City's 1995 Smoke-Free Air Act by making the following locations smoke-free: bars, restaurants of any size, offices, pool halls, bingo parlors, bowling alleys, and other indoor areas. Mayor Bloomberg submitted the Legislation to the Council today.

"I am proud that New York City will be a national leader in tackling the most pressing public health issue facing New Yorkers and all Americans today: the devastating consequences of smoking," said Mayor Bloomberg as he announced the bill's introduction. "No one should have to breathe poison to hold a job or frequent an indoor public space. I am particularly gratified to know that so many distinguished leaders in the fight for clean indoor air are here with me today to lend their support to this legislation to protect workers and the public."

"This bill represents a courageous step forward by the City on behalf of workers' rights and public health," said Minority Leader Oddo. "Our main duty as elected officials is to protect the health and welfare of those who live in and visit this City. Study after study has shown the devastating effect of secondhand smoke. If New York City were to sit on the sidelines and not stand up for people who work in smoke filled environments, we would be complicit in the tobacco industry's guilt. It used to be the culture in this City that smoking was acceptable in subways and stadiums, but we changed the law and now it is unthinkable that smoking would be permitted in those places. Similarly, years from now, people will look back with amazement that smoking was once allowed in bars and restaurants. The time has come to draw the line and tell the tobacco companies 'no more,' and I vow, with Mayor Bloomberg, to help lead this fight."

"Second-hand smoke kills," said Commissioner Frieden. "Just 30 minutes of exposure makes your blood clot and your arteries react the same way those of a chronic smoker do – and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Second-hand smoke causes more cancer deaths than asbestos, benzene, arsenic, pesticides, hazardous wastes sites, industrial chemicals, contaminated sludge, and consumer products, combined. Second-hand smoke kills approximately 1,000 New York City residents every year. That is why we must act now."

Studies have shown that employees in bars and in restaurants where smoking is permitted have a 50% higher risk of lung cancer than other workers, even after taking their own smoking habits into account, and that working one eight-hour shift in smoky bar exposes one to the same amount of carcinogens as smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day.

Dennis Rivera added his support: "My unequivocal support goes to Mayor Bloomberg, Councilmember Quinn, and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Thomas Frieden for their proposal to ban smoking in all our city's restaurants and bars. As healthcare workers, this issue is of paramount importance. Each day, the 215,000 members of 1199 SEIU see the suffering caused by tobacco smoke – quite often among the poorest New Yorkers who are victims of a work environment over which they have no control."

Mr. O'Neal, owner of O'Neal's restaurant and a past President of the New York State Restaurant Association said: "We were warned over and over in 1994 that many restaurants would go out of business if the Smoke-Free Air Act was enacted. But after the law went into effect, the restaurant business in New York City boomed, tourism increased, and the city's restaurant industry and employment grew significantly more than it did in the rest of the state, which by and large has not placed restrictions on smoking. Clean indoor air is vital for our employees' health, and it does not hurt profits. Moreover, our employees are grateful for the protections to their health provided by the 1995 legislation. We need to extend those protections to those working in dining establishments where smoking is still permitted, including restaurant bars," he added.

Ms. Hart Sturm, the proprietor of the smoke-free Iridium Jazz Club noted that eight in ten adult New Yorkers don't smoke. She said: "More people will want to go out for a drink and entertainment in establishments like mine if they know they won't be subject to the irritating and unhealthy effects of second-hand smoke."

This view is confirmed by statistics from other jurisdictions where clean indoor air legislation has been enacted; in California, where smoking has been prohibited in bars as well as restaurants since 1998, sales of beer, wine, and liquor in taverns increased in every quarter in 1998, 1999, and 2000, the last year for which such data is available.

Richard Toes, a New York City bartender said: "People who work in bars or restaurant bars don't want to go home at the end of the day smelling like an ashtray. More importantly, we don't want to increase our chances of getting cancer because we need to earn a living. It's easy for critics to say that if we don't want to work in a smoke-filled environment that we should just go work somewhere else, but finding another job isn't easy."

To contact the New York State Smokers' Quitline, call 1-888-609-6292.

Participants in today's Press Conference

Abyssinian Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts, Pastor
Al Leiter, NY Mets
American Cancer Society , Robert R. Kugler, Esq, President, of New York and New Jersey
American Heart Association, Nieca Goldberg, M.D.
American Lung Association of the City of New York, Robert Roth, President
American Medical Schools of New York, Jo Wiederhorn, Executive Director
Asian American and Pacific Islander Tobacco Control Network, Kenneth Kwong, Chair
Dennis Rivera, President, 1199 SEIU New York's Health and Human Services Union and 1199 Union members.
          (Mr. Rivera could not be present but sent statement of support.)
Gay, Lesbian, Transgender, Bisexual Task Force
Iridium Jazz Club, Ellen's Stardust Diner, Ellen Hart Sturm
Louie's Westside Café, Louis Sloves
National Latino Council on Alcohol and Tobacco, Moises Perez, Board Member
New York Medical College, Dr. Ralph O'Connell, Dean and Provost
New York City Asthma Partnership
NYC Coalition For A Smoke Free City, Donald H. Gemson, MD, Chair
NYU School of Medicine, Karen Acker
The Honorable James Oddo, Minority Leader, New York City Council
O'Neal's Restaurant, Michael O'Neal
Dr. Harold Freeman, M.D., Chairperson, President's Task Force on Cancer, former chief of surgery at Harlem Hospital.
          (Dr. Freeman could not be present but sent a statement of support).
Reality Check, Youth Advocacy Against Tobacco Use
Richard Toes, Bartender
SUNY Downstate Medical Ctre. and the Associated Medical Schools of NY, Dean Eugene Feigelson, MD
Union Square Café, Danny Meyer
Zagat Restaurant Surveys, Tim Zagat