Dear Councilman Robles,
When I presented testimony at the February, 2000 City Council hearing regarding the possibility of expanding the New York City Clean Indoor Air Act I stated that I was speaking as a private citizen with no ties to any pro-smoking groups or tobacco company. At the time this was true. I have since come to realize that although government is in place to do the will of the people, it is the numerous titled organizations that are heard and given attention above the lone citizen. It is a sad state of affairs but the truth nonetheless. Therefore, in order to also be heard, I found it necessary to found a grassroots organization on behalf of all the residents of New York City that do not appear to have an influential voice regarding this issue in the chambers of City Hall. There are numerous groups that speak on the behalf of the rights of those who choose to smoke but my group, NYC C.L.A.S.H. (Citizens Lobbying Against Smoker Harassment), is primarily concerned with the treatment of those who choose to smoke in New York City. One thing has not changed. I remain having no ties to any tobacco company.
I would like to take this opportunity to voice my dismay over the actions by The Coalition for a Smoke-Free City. Their July 31, 2000 ad in the New York Times is a gross distortion of the facts. The headline claims that the #1 killer in the American workplace is secondhand smoke (SHS). Hyperbole like this should not be entertained. There is no scientific basis by which this hysteria produced headline can stand on. Every study that has attempted to link secondhand smoke to disease has resulted in statistically insignificant findings. The largest single problem is that few people understand how health risk studies actually operate and the anti-smoking community uses that fact to their advantage. The public, because of no help by the media, mistakes correlation for causation and coincidence for conviction. The Statistical Assessment Service (STATS) is a group that keeps the record straight against what the media and the fanatics toss at the public. They give a wide berth to epidemiological studies, the technique used to study SHS, and warn us that we are continually fooled into thinking we know something due to the results of these studies when in fact we really don’t. STATS has said that the statistical evidence being thrown around about SHS has “more holes than a wiffle ball.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), they state that information on work-related fatal illnesses are not reported in BLS tracking records and are excluded because the incubation period of many occupational illnesses and the difficulty of linking illnesses to work make identification of people who may have become ill because of their work environment problematic. The BLS admits that there is no positive way to know that a worker’s illness was brought on by their surroundings at work, yet The Coalition for a Smoke-Free City wants you to believe that they know exactly what causes the “#1 killer in the workplace.” I can’t possibly believe that they are privy to information that the BLS is not.
The wildly exaggerated claims made in the New York Times ad are intended to raise fear, and then action, in those who are unaware of the tactics and ultimate agendas of groups such as these. It is my hope that the members of the New York City Council do not fall prey to the tactics of this group and others like it and remain fair-minded on the issue of accommodating nonsmokers and smokers alike. Please do not allow well paid for ads in a highly regarded newspaper to influence you on this matter. The impressiveness of the ad should not be mistaken for impressive reporting. The reporting of their “facts” is nothing short of an attempt to justify their unreasonable goals.
Thank you for your time and attention.
THE #1 KILLER
IN THE AMERICAN
We are not prohibitionists. We do not want to prohibit smoking. Smokers have every right to smoke and hurt themselves. They should not, however, have the right to hurt innocent people who don't want to breathe their smoke.
The public first learned that smoke from other people's cigarettes causes disease in 1986, when U.S. Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop reported that secondhand smoke was "a cause of disease, including lung cancer, in healthy nonsmokers." Soon thereafter, the National Academy of Sciences released an independent report that drew the same conclusion.
Six years later, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also concluded that secondhand smoke causes lung cancer and respiratory disease. In fact, the EPA classified secondhand smoke as a "Group A" carcinogen, along with asbestos, benzene, arsenic and radon. It is illegal to expose workers to any Group A carcinogen -- except tobacco smoke. Secondhand tobacco smoke, however, kills more people than all other Group A carcinogens combined! Each year, secondhand smoke causes 3,000 deaths from lung cancer of otherwise healthy nonsmokers; 62,000 deaths from heart disease; 26,000 new asthma cases; up to one million cases of aggravated asthma; and up to 300,000 cases of bronchitis and pneumonia in toddlers -- 15,000 of which require hospitalization.
In the face of cynical attempts by tobacco interests to discredit the
EPA report, the EPA strongly reaffirmed its conclusions. The National
Cancer Institute validated the EPA study, and the World Health Organization
answered tobacco industry distortions by issuing a press release entitled,
"Don't let them fool you. Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer."
Indeed, every major medical organization in the world agrees that secondhand
smoke causes disease, including the American Medical Association, the American
Public Health Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung
Association, the American Heart Association and the U.S. Department of
Health & Human Services.
Too many people are still exposed to secondhand smoke in their workplace -- especially if they work in restaurants, bars and nightclubs. In a letter to the New York City Council, one bartender wrote, "Our environment is often reduced to a single room with no space to maneuver away from the toxic clouds of smoke. There is no ventilation system in the world that will work against smoke blown two feet away from your face."
The tobacco cartel claims that businesses will be hurt when laws require them to go smokefree, but the evidence proves that just the opposite is true. As movie theatres, Broadway theatres, airlines, trains and sports stadiums have gone smokefree, patronage has increased, and sales tax data from restaurants shows that restaurant revenues have increased after smokefree policies were enacted. Smokefree environments are popular with customers.
The New York City Council passed historic legislation in 1995 to protect the health of New Yorkers by restricting smoking in restaurants seating more than 35 people and in other workplaces. Now, with the benefit of even more scientific evidence, the City Council should insist that all workplaces, including small restaurants, restaurant bars, and stand-alone bars and nightclubs, become 100% smokefree.
|Dennis Rivera, President
1199 SEIU New York's Health &
Human Service Union, AFL-CIO
Sonny Hall, International President
American Cancer Society,
Albert Einstein Cancer Center/Montefiore Medical Center
Beth Israel Medical Center
Chinese Progressive Association
Heart of Harlem
New York City Pharmacists Society
NYS Commission for a Healthy New York
Roswell Park Cancer Institute
Smokescreen Action Network
|Randi Weingarten, President
United Federation of Teachers
Carroll E. Haynes, President
American Lung Association of Brooklyn
American Lung Association of New York
American Lung Association of Queens
American Lung Association of NYS
Dominican Women's Development Center
Kings County Hospital
Mothers & Daughters Race Against Teen Smoking
National Council on Women's Health
New York Public Interest Research Group
|Lee Saunders, Administrator
District Council 37, AFSCME
Arthur Cheliotes, President
American Heart Association, NYC
Alliance For Smoke-Free Air
New York State Occupational Therapy Association
New York State Thoracic Society
North General Hospital Cancer Center
Public Health Association of NYC
SmokeFree Educational Services, Inc.
Stop Teenage Addiction to Tobacco
Women's Medical Association of NYC