Restaurant Workers Demand Clean Air
New Hampshire House passes smokefree workplace bill
Parts excerpted from Manchester Union Leader and Concord Monitor, 3/21/06
Concord (NH), 3/21/06 -– New Hampshire moved a step closer today to eliminating cigarette smoke in all restaurants and bars. The House approved a statewide smokefree workplace law, 189-156. It now heads to the Senate.
A group of restaurant workers and owners yesterday called on the New Hampshire House to pass the bill. At a press conference, Gardner Berry of the band Momma Kicks said he’s worked in bars as a musician for 40 years and still has trouble dealing with what he called, “the telltale air of bar stink” after work.
“Your freedom ends where my nose begins,” he said. Singers and other musicians have to breath deeply while performing to project, and inhale more smoke than the average bar goer, he said.
Tim Scanlon of the Sunset Grill in Campton said HB 1177 is a matter of health, not freedom. “Every other industry protects its workers from second-hand smoke,” he said. Kristen Cote, who works at the Red Blazer in Concord, agreed, asking, “Why should people be able to smoke at my job and put me in danger of developing cancer or heart disease?”
Priscilla Giles, secretary treasurer of the local American Federation of Musicians, said her members cannot simply change jobs. She said no other workers are expected to make those kinds of choices. “You shouldn’t expect someone to find a new job because they don’t want to breathe a hazardous substance,” she said.
“This is a health issue,” said Hampton Rep. Sheila Francouer. “I believe in New Hampshire's ‘Live Free or Die’ motto as much as anyone in this room, but I ask if any one of you have seen someone die of lung cancer.”
Manchester Rep. Hector Velez talked about his job as a health care worker and having to enter smoke-filled restaurants as part of his work. “I am affected by that smoke,” he said.
A recent poll by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center showed that 79 percent of those contacted support the ban. The group Clean Air Works for New Hampshire is the lead advocate for the bill with support the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce also supports the ban, having found after finding that 80 percent of its members support the ban.
California, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Montana, Vermont, Washington, New Jersey, Utah, Colorado, Puerto Rico, and Washington DC have passed comprehensive smokefree workplace legislation for workers, including restaurant and bar workers.
To send a letter in support of smokefree New Hampshire, go to www.smokefree.net/NH