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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
April 10, 2007

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Tom Slater
(609) 984-7160


 
New Jersey's First Year of Smoke Free Air Act a Success


 

TRENTON - New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D. today commemorated a successful first year of New Jersey's Smoke Free Air Act, noting overwhelming public support for the law and significant improvements in workplace air quality.  The Act, which bars tobacco smoking in most state workplaces and public buildings, was implemented on April 15, 2006.

"I am pleased to say that patrons and employees are working in healthier environments thanks to the successful implementation of the Smoke Free Air Act in New Jersey," said Dr. Jacobs.  "This landmark law—which protects workers and the public from the effects of secondhand smoke—is a giant step forward in public health prevention."

While the act supports public health, the public also overwhelmingly supports the act.  The Medical Society of New Jersey's October 2006 poll found 73 percent of residents approve of the law and its implementation, with support across all age, income, gender and political categories.  Eighty-nine percent say that New Jersey restaurants and bars are healthier for patrons and employees as a result of the Act.  The poll also found that 16 percent of residents are likely to go to restaurants more often, with only nine percent saying they would go less often.

Local health departments are responsible for enforcing the law, and are finding broad public support as well. In a survey conducted six months after the law took effect, 90 percent of the local health officers who responded reported that compliance was going very well in restaurants and 76 percent felt compliance was going very well in bars.  Of the complaints received by the state, approximately 43 percent were for bars, 40 percent for other workplaces not including restaurants, and 17 percent for restaurants.

A study by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and funded by NJ GASP (Group Against Smoking Pollution) found that workplace air quality saw a 91 percent reduction in pollutants and fell well within the limits prescribed by the Environmental Protection Agency after implementation of the new law. The study was carried out in 50 locations across 13 counties, and included restaurants, bars and bowling alleys.

"The dramatic improvement in air quality demonstrates the importance of the act for the families and workers of the Garden State," said Dr. Jacobs.  "New Jerseyans with asthma or allergies, families with young children, or people seeking employment who previously stayed away from restaurants and indoor recreational facilities are no longer limited by worries about the negative effects of secondhand smoke."

Secondhand smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals, including 200 known poisons and, according to the National Cancer Institute, 69 known and probable cancer-causing substances.  Secondhand smoke also exacerbates pediatric and adult asthma.  Infants exposed to secondhand smoke are at greater risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and pregnant women who smoke risk having lower birth-weight babies.

Up to 62,000 adult nonsmokers die each year in the United States from secondhand smoke according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  This includes between 1,000 and 1,800 New Jersey residents.

Having seen the difficulties encountered by other localities that had enacted similar laws, the department took proactive steps and implemented proven best practices which were essential in easing the transition to smoke free workplaces. The DHSS and local public health departments issued guidelines, sample posters and window stickers to assist businesses in going smoke free.

Proposed rules for implementing specific details not spelled out in the Smoke Free Air Act were published in the NJ Register on May 15, 2006, beginning a year long adoption process.  The public comment portion -- during which residents, employees, business owners and other interested parties offered changes and additions to the regulations – was completed on July 21, 2006.  DHSS staff is currently in the final review stages, and final adoption will be filed within the next six weeks.

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