Following the lead of cities and states across the country, Connecticut has implemented a statewide smoking ban that will take effect Oct. 1. Warmly received by university officials, New Haven politicans, and Connecticut public heath experts, the ban will prohibits smoking in all restaurants, bars, cafes and bowling alleys.
All clubs established after May 1, 2003 must also be smoke-free, as must all businesses with more than five workers.
Last year, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed similar smoking bans into law. States such as California and Oklahoma have made public smoking an offense everywhere in the state. Although anti-smoking sentiment has existed for years, it has just recently been institutionalized in the form of laws and ordinances.
After Connecticut’s smoking ban was proposed in February, it coasted through both the Senate and House with overwhelming bipartisan support. State Rep. Art Feltman and state Sen. Christopher D. Murphy, both Democrats, pushed the strict legislation along, while Republican Gov. John G. Rowland signed the bill into law.
State Sen. Toni N. Harp received the American Lung Association of Connecticut’s Breath of Life Award in early September for her efforts to bring various smoking prevention programs and legislation into fruition.
Tobacco companies have actively lobbied the Connecticut legislature throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. Between 1994 and 2002, tobacco companies spent an estimated $3.6 billion trying to woo lawmakers into relaxing restrictions on tobacco sale and use. The ban that will become law on Oct. 1, along with the recent cigarette tax increase, up to $1.11 per pack, suggests that such politicking has been relatively ineffectual.
According to the American Lung Association, an estimated 430,700 Americans die each year from diseases caused by smoking. Treatment for ailing smokers costs the United States about $97.2 billion annually. Eighty-seven percent of lung cancer cases and most instances of emphysema and bronchitis are a direct result of smoking.
“A ban on smoking in public places will help former smokers and those trying to quit. More than 50 percent of current smokers in Connecticut have attempted to quit, and a majority of those who ever smoked have already quit,” wrote Jody Sindelar, a professor at the Yale School of Epidemiology and Public Health and tobacco policy expert, in a recent Hartford Courant editorial.
For years, restaurant owners, fearing lower profits, have maintained that if their patrons want to smoke, they have a right to accommodate them. In contrast, waiters and waitresses, who are constantly exposed to secondhand smoke, often support anti-smoking legislation.
Sindelar contends that restaurant patrons will soon grow accustomed to the new policy, just as they adapted to the 1990 smoking ban on airline flights, which at the time, seemed radical.
“I’m a hardcore smoker, but I don’t mind that I can’t smoke in restaurants. Even though I smoke, if I am eating and someone else is smoking, it really annoys me,” said Caroline Craig ’07.