Don't gamble with people's health

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Don't gamble with people's health

Dear [Decision Maker],

I am writing to express opposition to HB 1283 (PG 312-20) Prince George's County--Alcoholic Beverages--Cigar Lounge License. As written, the proposed legislation significantly undermines the strong smoke-free workplace protections currently in place in Maryland. The proposed legislation creates a Class B-CL License in Prince George's County for cigar lounges to allow for the selling of alcohol and food. Currently, the Clean Indoor Air Act expressly restricts smoking in establishments licensed under the Alcoholic Beverages Article. MD. CODE ANN. HEALTH-GEN. ž24-501.

Allowing this license creates a significant loophole in indoor smoking protections and would make it easier to exempt establishments from the smoke-free law which weakens decades of progress in preventing exposure to secondhand smoke.

Reports from two different Surgeon Generals have found that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. While ventilation or air purification systems are sometimes promoted as a way to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, ventilation cannot remove all secondhand smoke and does not purify the air at rates fast enough to protect people from harmful toxins.

The Surgeon General has concluded that even separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposure of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke. The only effective way to fully protect nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke is to completely eliminate smoking in indoor public spaces.

Secondhand smoke should not be an occupational hazard for workers. Job related exposure to secondhand smoke is a significant, but entirely preventable, cause of premature death among U.S. workers. Business owners that allow smoking in the workplace increase their costs of doing business, while workers suffer health problems. Employers pay increased health, life, and fire insurance premiums, make higher workers' compensation payments, incur higher worker absenteeism, and settle for lower work productivity.

The National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) and the US Surgeon General found that occupational exposure to SHS increases workers' risk of lung cancer and other diseases. Patrons were also found to have significantly elevated levels of a tobacco-specific lung carcinogen after a four-hour visit to a casino that allowed smoking.

This year, 3,930 Maryland residents are expected to be diagnosed with lung cancer and it is estimated that over 2,310 will die of the disease.

Maryland has been a national leader in protecting all of its citizens from the known, indisputable hazards of secondhand smoke in the workplace and public places. A statewide smoke-free law that covers all indoor public places has been in place since 2008, and it's working! The law protects both workers and patrons at all business establishments
throughout the state, including the state's existing casinos. This 100% smoke-free law has been good for health and good for business.

Allowing an exemption for Prince George's County cigar lounges to allow for the sale of both food and alcohol, seriously undermines the law, and most importantly forces workers to choose between their health and a paycheck. I stand with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network urging you to reject this exemption that eliminates the healthy, sensible, fair and comprehensive smoke-free law in Maryland.

Your action will make a difference in saving lives from cancer.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Your Address]
[City, State ZIP]
[Your Email]