Majority of Texans support smoke free workplaces

AUSTIN, TX (News Release) – A new poll released today finds 70 percent of Texas voters support prohibiting smoking in indoor work and public places, including restaurants and bars.

The poll, released by the Smoke-Free Texas Coalition and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found support for smoke-free indoor work and public places cuts across party lines, including 67 percent of Republicans, 69 percent of Independents and 74 percent of Democrats. Among those sharing all or most of the views of the tea party movement, 54 percent support a smoke-free workplace law.

"It's heartening to see that Texans agree on the right to breathe clean indoor air," said Doug Ulman, LIVESTRONG president and CEO. "Now is the time for the Texas Legislature to pass this landmark bill that will protect our citizens from the proven dangers of secondhand smoke exposure."

The poll also found that among Texas voters:

"h 63 percent are more likely to vote for a state legislator who supports the smoke-free law.

"h 85 percent believe that secondhand smoke is a health hazard, including 61 percent who say it is a serious health hazard.

"h 76 percent believe the right of employees and customers to breathe clean air in restaurants and bars is more important than the right of smokers to smoke and businesses owners to allow smoking.

"h 90 percent agree that all workers should be protected from exposure to secondhand smoke in the workplace.

"All Texans should be able to enjoy a smoke-free workplace," said Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst. "Exposure to secondhand smoke unfairly puts of the health of non-smokers at risk and creates an unhealthy work environment for everyone. Now is the time to make smoke-free workplaces a reality."

Smoke-Free Texas Coalition members include the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, LIVESTRONG, Texas PTA, and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. The Coalition is working to engage the Texas Legislature in an effort to pass a comprehensive statewide smoke-free law in 2011 to provide clean indoor air for all Texas employees and customers.

The study comes on the heels of legislation that was filed by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and Rep. Myra Crownover (R- Denton). Senate Bill 355 and House Bill 670 propose comprehensive smoke-free legislation that would give all Texans protection from the dangers of secondhand smoke exposure in the workplace.

"The bottom line is that this bill will save lives and taxpayer dollars," said Texas Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston). "The poll results clearly indicate that the vast majority of Texans understand the impact smoking has on our health and our economy. Senate Bill 355 will improve the health of Texans and save our state billions of dollars in health care costs over time."

The proposed legislation is a product of discussion and feedback by stakeholders and lawmakers over the last several years. By passing a comprehensive smoke-free workplace law, lawmakers can continue to fight against cancer, heart disease and other preventable health risks caused by exposure to secondhand smoke.

"Twenty-nine other states have enacted comprehensive smoke-free laws similar to HB 670 and numerous studies show that smoke-free workplace laws have led to significant savings for state governments," said Texas Representative Myra Crownover (R- Denton). "No one can dispute the mountain of evidence that has proven that not only does secondhand smoke kill people, but it also is costing taxpayers millions of dollars in healthcare costs and other expenses."

Texans across the state increasingly recognize the benefits of a smoke-free environment. In August, San Antonio joined the list of 34 Texas cities to pass a smoke-free ordinance.

Exposure to secondhand smoke kills 53,000 non-smoking Americans annually and is a known cause of lung cancer, heart disease, premature birth and low birth weight, and other health problems. A 2006 report by the U.S. Surgeon General – the most comprehensive scientific report ever produced on the health impact of secondhand smoke – concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

The statewide survey of 501 registered voters in Texas was conducted by the Austin-based polling firm Baselice & Associates, Inc. The survey was conducted January 12-16, 2011 and has an overall margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points.