Without debate, without public input, the DC Council just created a hole in the city’s smoke-free laws. In mid-June, while drafting the Budget Support Act of 2011 (BSA), language was inserted that would allow hotels across the city a one-time exemption from the smoking ban. Councilmember Phil Mendelson stood up for the health of people across DC, unfortunately, his was the lone voice speaking out to ensure the laws that were in place were protected.
Less than a week later, the DC Council tried to “fix” the law by creating a tighter limitation on which hotels were allowed to apply for an exemption. Sadly, they’re ignoring the real solution, which is to remove the law completely.
The smoke-free laws were created to protect the public from the dangers of second-hand smoke, and have been in place since 2007. A large number of HIV/AIDS and LGBT organizations endorsed the original smoke-free workplace legislation. Endorsers of the original smoke-free workplace legislation included: The Gay and Lesbian Activist Alliance, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, Mautner Project, The National Coalition for LGBT Health, AQUA-DC (Asians Queers United for Action), and Whitman-Walker Clinic. Establishments that supported the legislation included Cafe Luna and Skewers, and the Duplex Diner.
These laws protect the health of people in bars, restaurants, office buildings, and hotels. The effects of second-hand smoke are well-known and documented. Supporters suggest that since it’s only one time, it can’t be that bad. Ask yourself, would you be interested in going to a hospital that had a one-day exemption from hygiene? What about a restaurant that had a one-day exemption from their food safety regulations?
This bill is hurts the health of people across the District. Not just people attending the event will be exposed to second-hand smoke, but other people staying at the hotel and the employees of the hotel will be exposed to cancer-causing chemicals. They didn’t ask for an exemption to the law. The DC Council shouldn’t have created one.
The DC Center for the LGBT Community