Rhode Island Likely to Become Next Smokefree Workplace State
House likely to join Senate in bid to pass smokefree workplace legislation
Influential legislators say this will be the year Rhode Island passes smokefree workplace legislation. Last year, the Rhode Island Senate passed such legislation, but the House held back. This year, the House appears likely to join the Senate and perhaps even take the lead.
"I am confident we will see some kind of smokefree workplace law passed in Rhode Island," House Speaker Bill Murphy said at the start of this year's legislative session.
"I would like to see an end" to workplace smoking, House Majority Leader Gordon Fox said Wednesday. Legislation is being drafted do just that, Fox said, including one to be introduced by the House leadership, a sure sign that it has a serious chance of passing.
Rep. Arthur Corvese of North Providence, chairman of the House Labor Committee that will hear smokefree bills, said: "I feel something positive will come out of it. Some kind of smokefree workplace law will come out of the House this year."
"ALL workers (including office, restaurant, bar, bingo, bowling, casino, tavern, pub, and nightclub workers) deserve a safe, healthy, smokefree work environment," says Joe Cherner, founder of BREATHE-- Bar and Restaurant Employees Advocating Together for a Healthy Environment. "Laws should treat the health of all workers EQUALLY. Bar and restaurant workers should have the same right to a smokefree work envrionment as everyone else. No worker should have to breathe tobacco smoke pollution to hold a job, because it causes cancer, heart disease, and respiratory disease."
Rep. Elizabeth Dennigan of Pawtucket and East Providence has introduced a bill, as she has for each of the past several years. This year, however, she feels more confident that her bill, or some bill, will pass, thus providing all Rhode Island workers with a safe, healthy, smokefree workplace.
"Massachusetts is poised to enact legislation," Dennigan said, "both chambers have passed it and Governor Romney says he will sign it. Connecticut, Delaware, and Maine have already passed it. The entire state of New York has passed it; prior to that it was just New York City.
"We have received data on a weekly basis from New York that has shown that jobs in the restaurant and bar industry have increased," Dennigan said.
But she said advocates wouldn't be concentrating on the economic arguments as they have done in past years. This year they will focus on the health effects of second-hand smoke.
"In past years, I thought most people realized the health impacts, so I focused on the economics," Dennigan said. But many people don't realize that data "clearly show a strong causal relationship between secondhand smoke and heart disease, cancer, respiratory diseases and developmental problems in children."
"We are trying to get the health message across that even if smoke does not bother you, rest assured that it is harming you and harming your family," she said.