FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Contact: Cynthia Hallett - 510-841-3032

The Days of Smoke-Filled Rooms in the United States Capitol Are Over

New smokefree policy will protect Congressional staff and visitors from secondhand smoke

In an historic move, new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on January 10th that, effective immediately, there will be a new smokefree policy for the Speaker’s Lobby, a key meeting area for Members of Congress just off the Floor of the House of Representatives.

"As Members of Congress, we must be held to a higher standard," Pelosi said in a statement. "We can no longer risk the health of colleagues, staff, pages, reporters and others who pass through the Speaker's Lobby each day."

Although the District of Columbia has a new smokefree workplace law that took effect this month, it does not apply to the Capitol.

In view of the recent report issued by The Office of the Surgeon General reaffirming that secondhand smoke is a leading cause of heart disease and cancer in nonsmokers and that there is no safe level of exposure, it is more important than ever that Members of Congress, their staff, and visitors be provided with smokefree air in the Capitol.

"On behalf of all nonsmokers, we applaud Speaker Pelosi for her leadership. People in the Capitol deserve the same smokefree protections as other workers in the District of Columbia. Smokefree air in the workplace is no longer just a California trend - it is a national expectation," said Cynthia Hallett, Executive Director of the California-based non-profit group Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

Smokefree air is the national norm. More than 50% of the U.S. population now lives in an area with a local or statewide law ensuring smokefree protections in workplaces and public places. More than 577 municipalities and 22 states now have smokefree workplace laws, according to the ANR Foundation, the national repository for smokefree and other tobacco-related laws.

In another historic milestone, the majority of state capitol buildings are now smokefree as of January 1st. Statehouses in Jackson, MS, Little Rock, AR, Indianapolis, IN, Topeka, KS, and Nashville, TN are among the 27 that are now smokefree.

Hallett said, "We hope Congress will now finish the job by extending smokefree protections throughout the entire Capitol including private offices and the cafeteria."

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