One-Year Anniversary of NYC Smoke-Free Air Act

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City Releases Report Showing Smoke-Free Air Act Made Workplaces Safer and has not Hurt the Restaurant and Bar Industry

NEW YORK CITY - March 29, 2004 - Bartenders, managers, owners and health organizations joined City officials today at the Blind Tiger Ale House to toast the one-year anniversary of the 2002 Smoke-Free Air Act (SFAA), the law that established a smoke-free workplace for nearly all New Yorkers. The NYC Departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Finance, and Small Businesses Services and the City's Economic Development Corporation also jointly released a report entitled "The State of Smoke-Free New York City," a one-year review of the economic and health impact of the law

In addition to bar owners and workers, attendees included Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, Finance Commissioner Martha E. Stark, Small Business Services First Deputy Commissioner Andrew Schwartz, Chief Operating Officer of the New York City Economic Development Corporation Joshua Sirefman, and representatives from the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, Coalition for a Smoke-Free New York, and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden, said, "New York City is a healthier place to work, eat, and drink. The law has not hurt the bar and restaurant industry, and 150,000 more workers in New York City breathe smoke-free air every day, reducing their risk of heart disease, stroke and lung cancer."

Workers and Owners Support Smoke-Free Workplaces

David Brodrick, owner of the Blind Tiger Ale House, said, "The Blind Tiger has been in business for a long time, and we've had a fairly regular crowd for years. The new law hasn't changed any of that - the same customers, and plenty of new ones, are coming to our bar. Even better, I don't cough as much as I used to, and when I go home, my hair and clothes don't smell like smoke."

Patricia Villari, a bartender at Spring Lounge, said, "I've been a bartender for a long time, and always had to put up with smoky air. During the past year, I've been breathing easier and when I go into work, my health is no longer in danger from second-hand smoke."

Mark D'Andrea, owner of The Road House, said, "Like many other bar owners in New York City, I was concerned that the new law would affect my business. One year later, my business is continuing to grow, and my bartenders say their tips are up. What's even more important, though, is that my employees and I don't have to breathe other people's smoke all night long. I'm happy that I can now provide a healthy, smoke-free workplace for my employees."

SFAA Has Not Had a Negative Impact on the Bar and Restaurant Industry

Economic indicators show that the SFAA, which was implemented on March 30, 2003, did not negatively impact restaurants and bars in New York City. According to the NYC Department of Finance, from April 1, 2003-January 31, 2004 business tax receipts from bars and restaurants were up 8.7% from the same period in 2002-2003, showing that New Yorkers have spent more money in New York City's bars and restaurants since the SFAA took effect.

Employment in bars and restaurants increased since the Smoke-Free Air Act took effect. From March 2003 to December 2003, the number of people working in New York City bars and restaurants increased by approximately 10,600, or about 2,800 seasonally adjusted jobs. In 2003, there was an average of 164,000 workers employed in the restaurant and bar industry - the highest number recorded in at least a decade.

The New York State Department of Labor reported that in 2003, the number of bar and restaurant opening and closing was nearly the same - an improvement over 2002, when there were 280 more closings than openings. In addition, the New York State Liquor Authority issued more than 1,400 new liquor licenses in 2003, contributing to a total of 9,747 active liquor licenses in the City, and 234 more licenses than in 2002.

Finance Commissioner Martha E. Stark said, "The increase in business tax payments by bars and restaurants shows that New Yorkers are still very much in the habit of enjoying the City's nightlife, which is now healthier thanks to this life-saving smoke-free workplace law."

"This study is yet another sign that New York City's economy is getting stronger by the day," said Small Business Services Commissioner Robert W. Walsh. "Employment in bars and restaurants is up and business keeps improving. This is great news from one of the City's most important industries."

"New York City's wonderful restaurants and bars account for an important component of our economy," said Joshua Sirefman, Chief Operating Officer of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. "They are one of the principal reasons people want to live here and companies want to locate here-not to mention they make up a significant part of our employment base. So far, we have seen no evidence that the Smoke-Free Air Act is causing jobs to be lost in this critical sector. But we do know it's contributing to the improved health of our restaurant and bar workers."

New Yorkers Support the Smoke-Free Air Act

Since the implementation of the SFAA on March 30, 2003, DOHMH has inspected more than 20,000 New York City restaurants and bars. The vast majority - 97% - are smoke-free, with posted "No Smoking" signs, no ashtrays, and no smoking in their establishments.

Polls continue to indicate that New Yorkers are overwhelmingly in favor of the Smoke-Free Air Act. In June 2003, a Zogby International poll showed that 69% of New York City voters support the law. An October 2003 Quinnipiac poll similarly showed that New Yorkers support the law by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 (62% supported vs. 35% opposed).

New York City is Healthier than Ever

Exposure to second-hand smoke killed an estimated 1,000 New Yorkers in 2002, and caused illnesses, such as asthma and respiratory infections, in tens of thousands more. Prior to the Smoke-Free Air Act, African-Americans, Hispanics, and those with lower incomes were twice as likely as whites to have to be exposed to second-hand smoke at their workplace. Now virtually all New Yorkers work in a smoke-free environment.

DOHMH compared air quality in bars that allowed smoking in August 2002 to air quality in those same bars in May 2003, after the non-smoking legislation went into effect. On average, these bars showed a six-fold reduction in air pollution levels after the law went into effect.

A study by the New York State Department of Health confirmed that restaurant and bar workers now face significantly less second-hand smoke exposure at work. They measured levels of cotinine - a tobacco by-product found in people who have inhaled tobacco smoke - among non-smoking workers one month prior to implementation of the New York State Clean Indoor Air Act, and again three months after it took effect. They found an 85% decline in cotinine levels, showing that non-smoking workers are now breathing much cleaner air at work.

"This legislation is a perfect example of how public servants and the public health community can work together to combat the city's number one killer, heart disease," said George Rosales, Senior Regional Director, Advocacy, of the American Heart Association. "Thousands of work sites across our city are now free of the toxic chemicals found in second-hand smoke and that is reason enough for celebration."

"Today marks an important milestone in public health as we celebrate a year of healthier workplaces in New York City," said Cindy Erickson, Chief Executive Officer of the American Lung Association of the City of New York. "Second-hand smoke is a serious asthma trigger. At a time when asthma has reached epidemic proportions and affects more than a million City residents, the Smoke-Free Air Act is vital to helping everyone breathe easier."

"This is an anniversary that every New Yorker should applaud," said Hector Batista, Executive Vice President of the American Cancer Society's Eastern Division. "Over the last year we have all enjoyed more than just tastier meals and happier happy hours - we have saved lives, and that is truly worth a celebration" he said. "Exposure to second-hand smoke at work kills tens of thousands of people across the country every year. Thanks to this law, New Yorkers are no longer adding to this statistic."

A statement from Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids said: "Today's report shows why the public, policy makers and the media should treat with skepticism the claims of economic doom and gloom made by opponents of smoke-free laws. As they have sought to do in New York City, opponents of such laws try to generate negative headlines based on anecdotal, unrepresentative evidence of economic harm. Their goal is to weaken or repeal smoke-free laws and head them off elsewhere. These claims of economic harm are discredited time and again by impartial economic data such as those released today in New York City."

Press Release from New York City Department of Health
and Mental Hygiene

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