Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Andy Dillon Should Bring Up the Smoke Free Bill…Again

Nearly a month ago, the House voted on HB 4377 which would make Michigan workplaces smoke free but exempted casinos, cigar bars, and tobacco shops. Speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford) had reportedly told his caucus members that he would allow a vote on a clean bill without exemptions, but when those amendments came up (respectively brought by Rep. Joan Bauer (D-Lansing) and Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Haven)), they were quickly gaveled down and no votes were taken. Dillon said he wanted to see what the Senate did with HB 4377.

Despite Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop’s (R-Rochester) previous statements that he would only allow a vote on a clean bill, Dillon seemed optimistic that he could “work something out” between the chambers. However, Speaker Dillon also made some public statements to business owners as well as to members of his caucus that if the Senate failed to act on the smoke free workplaces issue that he would allow for a vote on a comprehensive bill.

As of this writing, twenty-nine full days have passed since the House sent HB 4377 over to the Senate. It’s time for Speaker Dillon to act by sending a comprehensive smoke free bill, such as Rep. Bauer’s HB 4341 or Rep. Scott’s HB 4099 to the floor for a vote.

Here are 10 reasons why Speaker Dillon should take up the smoke free workplaces bill:

10. Leadership. Dillon can take this opportunity to pass comprehensive legislation and become a leader and champion for the state’s public health, rather than being accused of “holding up” Michigan’s health by passing a bill the Senate leadership has refused to address. He can ">“take the lead” in creating public health reform that works.

9. Public Health. As someone who has said he is committed to public health, this would be a big victory for both Dillon and the State of Michigan. States that have gone smoke free report have reported near immediate drops in the heart attack rate. Long term benefits include further drops in heart attack, cancer, and asthma rates.

8. Poker and Politics. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop has wavered on the idea of even taking up the issue of smoke free air. Bishop has previously said, however, that he would consider allowing a vote on a comprehensive bill. If Speaker Dillon passed a comprehensive bill he would call Bishop’s bluff, leaving him no choice but to allow a vote on smoke free air. Smoke free air can be debated as a public health issue, not a political game.

7. The economy. Research shows that the new economy thrives in areas that provide access to a great quality of life. Quality of life factors can include health care, jobs, and working conditions. States with smoke free workplaces laws have reported less employee absenteeism due to smoking related illnesses and ailments (such as chest colds, bronchitis, asthma, etc). Employees in smoke free states also report a more pleasant working experience (as compared to pre-smoke free status). Employers also generally see a decrease in direct health care costs for insurance, as well as lower maintenance costs (since carpets, furniture, and equipment last longer in smoke free environments).

6. The economy. Michigan residents spend 1.1 billion Medicaid dollars on smoking related health care. Each Michigan resident spends at least $306 annually to address smoking related health care costs. In addition, the state loses $3.95 billion in production costs due to tobacco use.

5. Constituency. It is what the people want. Over 2/3 of Michigan voters have indicated that they support smoke free laws. Give the people what they want.

4. Bipartisan cooperation. During his Opening Day Remarks, Dillon said, “While we may never end the partisanship that has divided this Capitol in the past, we can focus our energies in areas where we share common ground.” The smoke free workplaces law epitomizes an area where there is common ground. Legislators on both sides of the aisle support comprehensive smoke free air, and Speaker Dillon would do well to unite the parties on this issue.

3. Integrity. If Speaker Dillon took a vote on comprehensive smoke free air, it would add to his reputation as a politician who keeps his word. Following the failed vote on HB 4163 last session, Dillon assured smoke free advocates that the issue would be taken up again during 2009. On opening day, he prioritized the smoke free air issue and challenged his colleagues to finish working on the issue.

2. Future prospects. Speaker Dillon is term limited in 2010. Following a long and successful political career in the House, it’s hard to imagine that either Dillon or his constituents want to see him go anywhere. In a run for Governor, Attorney General, or other office, having this law’s passage on his list of accomplishments will stand out. (See also Reasons 3-5).

1. This really is a life or death issue. The Surgeon General has concluded that there is NO safe level of secondhand smoke exposure. Following the implementation of smoke free laws, heart attack rates go down significantly. Within two months of going smoke free, states have reported 60% drops in complaints about respiratory difficulty (such as shortness of breath, asthma attacks, bronchitis, etc). Passing a smoke free workplaces law is an efficient, economical way to help our struggling public health system.

Michigan's people have waited for too long. The evidence is in, the support is overwhelming, the time is NOW.

Contact Speaker Dillon and ask him to do the right thing, keep his word, and call for a vote on comprehensive smoke free air.

CALL: 888-737-3455
FAX: 517-373-5976
26284 Graham Rd.
Redford Township, MI 48239

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