From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Contact: Margaret Justus, 713-236-0306

Statement by Senator Rodney Ellis regarding Smoke-free Texas Workplace Legislation

30th anniversary of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout®
November 16, 2006

I believe the time has come for the Texas Legislature to seriously address the issue of Texas workers being forced to breathe deadly second-hand smoke. That is why I intend to file the Texas Smoke-Free Workplace Law in the upcoming 80th session of the Texas Legislature.

Across the country more than 2,300 communities and 18 states including Ohio, Arizona and Nevada have voted to go smoke free. Hawaii’s state law becomes effective today.

Here in Texas 47 cities have passed ordinances that contain smoke-free provisions and 13 of those cities including Houston, Austin, El Paso, Abilene, and Laredo – have passed strong, comprehensive ordinances that protect employees as well as the public. This past Election Day, Abilene and Baytown voted to go smoke free.

However, we still have a large population of Texans who remain unprotected from secondhand smoke. This past June, U. S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona released a report on the harmful effects of secondhand tobacco smoke and called on public policy makers to protect the health of workforce employees by enacting comprehensive smoke-free laws. The report concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and that smoke-free laws do not have a negative economic impact on the hospitality industry.

It is estimated that secondhand smoke causes 35,000 to 45,000 deaths each year from heart disease and 3,000 more deaths from lung cancer among nonsmokers. More than 564,000 Americans will die from cancer this year, and 30 percent of those deaths will be caused by tobacco.

I can’t think of a better date in history to announce our plans to pass the Texas Smoke Free Workplace Law on this 30th anniversary of the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout®.

I am very proud to have the support of the American Cancer Society, The American Heart Association and the American Lung Association in this effort and I expect we will have strong bi-partisan support as well.

Finally, and most importantly, we know the people support it. This type of law has passed in very different parts of the state - from Austin, to Baytown to Abilene - voters have agreed to go smoke free.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to the day when we can all breathe easier across this great state of ours.