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January 27, 2009 3:37 am

It's time for a smoke-free Wyoming

Written by Tribune Staff

After failing repeatedly in previous legislative sessions, a statewide smoking ban has a fighting chance as it heads to the House floor.

An amended bill to prohibit smoking in restaurants and other public places — but allow tobacco use in bars — narrowly passed the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee Friday.

Let's hope the bill doesn't suffocate in the Legislature once again.

An estimated 22,700 to 69,600 nonsmokers in America will die prematurely this year due to secondhand smoke, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nonsmoking customers can choose to avoid a restaurant or bar if it's notoriously smoky. Nonsmoking workers, however, cannot. A statewide smoking ban not only protects consumers, but also hundreds of employees who work long shifts in restaurants and bars saturated with smoke.

Workers who are exposed to secondhand smoke increase their risk of developing heart disease and lung disease by around 25 percent, according to the CDC.

Lawmakers need to consider the health of nonsmoking employees around the state when considering this bill. Some workers have few options when it comes to switching occupations and, therefore, are unable to escape an endangering work environment.

Smoke-free air is not only good for health — it's also good for business.

According to Americans for Nonsmokers Rights: “While the tobacco industry has claimed for years that smoke-free ordinances have a negative impact on business, particularly hospitality-oriented businesses, that simply is not true. Every independent study ever done to show the economic effect of smoke-free ordinances has shown that there is no negative impact to businesses.”

City leaders in Cheyenne, Laramie and Evanston have led the way with municipal smoking bans in the Cowboy State, and it's time legislators followed suit with a statewide ban.