Written by Puff Staff

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

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Majority of Washington Voters Against Cigar Smoking in Bars and Restaurants


Recently released results from a poll conducted by several anti-smoking and health groups revealed that 71 percent of participants in the state of Washington opposed loopholes that would allow cigar smoking in bars, restaurants, and certain retail stores.

Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the poll surveyed 500 registered voters in Washington State over the phone, asking them their opinions on secondhand smoke and smoke-free environments. EMC Research of Seattle conducted the survey for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association of the Pacific, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. It was released in response to some 2011 proposals that would create special exemptions for cigar smokers in the Clean Indoor Air Act, which was approved in 2005 and bans smoking in public places, bars, and restaurants statewide. The topic is sure to cause some heated debated during the 2012’s upcoming session, and public health groups have already voiced strong opposition to any such proposals.

Beyond the 71 percent of participants who opposed any loopholes, the survey offered other key findings. Unfortunately for cigar fans, they were of the anti-smoking variety as well. Approximately 84 percent said they supported the Clean Indoor Air Act, and 92 percent said workers should not be exposed to secondhand smoke. Another 94 percent said that the smoke-free environments resulting from the act, including bars and restaurants, are much healthier for customers and employees.

The press release from PR Newswire offered some accompanying quotes conveying the same anti-smoking argument that has been used for some time now. Carrie Nyssen, the American Lung Association of Washington’s Regional Director of Advocacy and Air Quality, said: “The current clean indoor air law is working to protect everyone's right to breathe clean air. Secondhand smoke is a proven health hazard. It doesn't make sense to change current standards to allow cigar smoking in public places and workplaces.” Erin Dziedzic, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s Government Relations Director, added: “This loophole would undermine the point of the law: to protect workers and the public equally from all types of smoking risks. Weakening our clean indoor air laws by allowing cigar smoking would reintroduce cancer-causing substances into our public spaces, which means we're putting workers and customers at risk.”

One surprising quote was obtained from Patrick McAleese, owner of Kells Irish Restaurant and Pub. He said: “"I might have worked in a bar that allowed smoking, but I didn't like it.  I hated going home smelling like cigarettes. Bars are cleaner, customers and staff are happier and healthier since the Clean Indoor Air Act went into effect.  We're all better off. But it will be a slippery slope to open up smoking for cigar shops.  Legislators would be foolish to create loopholes in such a popular law.” The quote is surprising because bar and restaurant owners normally oppose anti-smoking laws out of the fear that they will drive certain customers away.

The survey certainly doesn’t paint cigar smoking in public places in a positive light, but you have to keep in mind the organizations behind it. It’s highly unlikely that any anti-smoking group would release survey results that conflicted with their views, so this should all be taken with a grain of salt. A sample size of 500 is not exactly huge, either. It remains to be seen whether or not the cigar smoking loopholes get approved, but if they do, it would be a nice victory for the smokers not only in Washington State, but those around the world who are fighting increasingly strict and unfair laws.

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