Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
December 3, 2007
Contact: Margaret Justus, 281-250-8253

Ellis calls on Texas Lottery Commission to look at contracts with smoky retailers

(AUSTIN) -- Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis called on Texas Lottery Commission officials today to re-evaluate the agency's contracts with retailers, which allow in-door smoking in light of the recent Texas Attorney General opinion on the matter.

"Texans should not have to gamble with their health and take a chance on suffering an asthma attack from cancerous secondhand smoke," said Senator Ellis.

"When I asked the Attorney General about this matter last spring, I was thinking about the thousands of Texans like Mr. Billy Williams (see Austin American Statesman article below) who deserve a safe place to work and - in his case - play the lottery."

The Lottery Commission is scheduled to meet this Wednesday, December 5th at 9 am. The Attorney General's opinion is eighth on the Commission's agenda.

"This is another good reason to pass a statewide law requiring smoke-free work places for all Texans," said Ellis, who led the effort to pass a statewide smoking ban this past legislative session.

21 Texas cities, including Houston, Austin, and El Paso have passed a comprehensive smoking ban, while 31 other cities have ordinances that contain some smoke-free provisions. However, Ellis said a large population of our state is unprotected from secondhand smoke and he believes this is simply unfair. Meanwhile, 22 other states are completely smoke-free.

During the 80th Legislative session, Ellis' proposed smoke-free workplace law (Senate Bill 368) had the backing of Lt. Governor David Dewhurst as well as a number of major health organizations including the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, and the American Heart Association, but did not become law.

Last month, in response to Senator Ellis' request for an Attorney General's opinion on the case of Billy J. Williams, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott stated that the Lottery Commission may be failing to comply with the Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Ellis is urging the Commission to take a hard look to ensure retailers are in compliance with the federal law that was passed and signed into law by former President George H.W. Bush in 1990.

In 2006, 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 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.

Attachment: Austin American Statesman article, PDF format