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Celebrating 10 Years of Breathing Clean Air in New York

Event Marks 10th Anniversary of Historic Legislation that Protects Workers and Challenges New Yorkers to Protect Children

Syracuse, N.Y. – New Yorkers will gather at events around the state on Wednesday, July 24, to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the New York State Clean Indoor Air Act, the historic legislation that protects workers from second-hand smoke and helps reduce smoking rates. Speakers also challenged New Yorkers to protect our children by tackling the issue of tobacco marketing in stores. St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center staff will celebrate the Clean Indoor Air Act on July 24, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the hospital cafeteria with a “Hats off to NYS” campaign. 

The 2003 state law, which went into effect on July 24, 2003, banned smoking in almost all workplaces, bars, restaurants, bowling facilities, taverns and bingo halls and protected millions of New Yorkers from daily exposure to deadly, second-hand smoke and the illnesses it causes. New York was the second state to pass a comprehensive clean indoor air law, after Delaware. There are now 35 states with similar laws. 

“This was a major achievement in public health that has helped many people,” said Stanley Meltzer, MD. “New York was a leader in recognizing the importance of giving people the opportunity to breathe clean air at work and live healthier lives.” 

This legislation was a major victory for those working in the hospitality industry who were sometimes faced with deciding between a paycheck and their health. 

”It has been such a pleasure to walk into the hospital without being exposed to cigarette smoke along the sidewalk and in entryways,” said Patricia Briest, a St Joseph’s employee. 

There was fierce opposition to this law and many stated it would be the end of the bar and restaurant business in New York. However, the hospitality industry has flourished and many areas have seen record increases in bar and restaurant business and employment.

Despite the success of this law and the countless lives that have been saved, smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and kills more than 25,000 New Yorkers every year.[i] Smoking related healthcare costs top $8 billion annually in New York State including $5.4 billion in Medicaid costs.[ii]

The U.S. Surgeon General characterizes youth smoking as a pediatric epidemic, and states that the evidence is clear that tobacco marketing causes youth to start smoking. Most start before they reach the age of 18. 

“Smoking is still a problem in New York, particularly among teens, and we still have work to do,” said Stephen Swierczek, Director of Respiratory Therapy at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  “Protecting youth from the excessive tobacco marketing they see in stores should be a top priority.”  

For more information about ongoing efforts to reduce smoking and protect children from tobacco marketing in Central New York visit www.tobaccofreenys.org.

St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center is a non-profit, 431-bed hospital and health care system in Syracuse, New York, providing services to patients in 16 counties in Central New York State. Through prevention programs and the latest diagnostic treatment procedures, St. Joseph's works with patients to achieve optimum long-term health. A 14-time winner of the National Research Corporation Consumer Choice award, St. Joseph’s is affiliated with Franciscan Companies and sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis. 

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[i] American Cancer Society, The Cancer Burden in New York State, July 2012

[ii] The Toll of Tobacco in New York, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, www.tobaccofreekids.org