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New Campaign: Clean Air Should Be on VA Menus 'Round the Clock

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October 20, 2008

Richmond, VA - Clean air shouldn't have a "closing time." That's the message behind a new campaign that supports a 24-hour smoke-free law for the Commonwealth. The campaign is a response to reports that some state officials are considering a smoke-free plan that would still allow smoking in Virginia restaurants after 10 p.m.

Keenan Caldwell is with the American Cancer Society, one of half a dozen groups supporting the campaign. He says the "late night" exception leaves the health of workers and customers at risk.

"Because of the dangers of second-hand smoke, which contains more than 4,000 chemicals -- 69 known to cause cancer -- it's just not protecting the health of Virginians."

Caldwell says the perception that Virginia is the "home of the tobacco industry" plus other obstacles in the General Assembly have slowed the process of putting a smoke-free law on the books. In the meantime, public support for the law has been growing, he adds.

"Over 75 percent of Virginians agree with this measure. They agree that this is a public health issue and that we need to be doing something about it."

Opponents of the 24-hour smoke-free law say it would be bad for business, and others question the danger of second-hand smoke. However, states with similar laws have reported little or no impact to the business bottom line. Caldwell says data shows that more than 1,500 deaths in Virginia each year can be attributed to second-hand smoke.

Eric Mack/Steve Powers, Public News Service - VA