Friday, May 22, 2009

Smoke Free Texas Initiative Far From Snuffed

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American Heart Association, Coalition partners to continue fight for public health




AUSTIN, Texas – A comprehensive bill to ban smoking in all indoor workplaces may be dead for the 81st Texas legislative session, but officials of Smoke Free Texas vow the fight to protect public health will continue.

On behalf of Smoke Free Texas, a coalition of public health organizations, the American Heart Association has placed a billboard within the Texas Capitol’s shadow at 3rd and Congress. The billboard reminds lawmakers that according to a recent poll funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Heart Association, 68% of Texans still support prohibiting smoking in all indoor work and public places, including restaurants and bars.

Senate Bill 544, authored by Sen. Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) passed through the Health and Human Services Committee, but Tuesday fell just short of the two-thirds vote needed to garner a full hearing in the Texas Senate. HB 5, authored by Rep. Myra Crownover (R-Denton) was also passed out of committee but the House was awaiting Senate action first. Similar legislation also failed to pass in the Texas Legislature last session.

Ellis and Crownover said they are likely to introduce the measure again during the next legislative session in two years. And American Heart Association officials say the billboard will serve as a reminder to lawmakers that there is unfinished business when the session ends later this month.

“The fight for smoke-free air is over for this session, but our commitment to the health of Texans isn’t,” said Joel Romo, Regional VP of Advocacy for the American Heart Association South Central Affiliate. “We will continue to work with local communities across the state to expand upon the nearly 30 that have passed comprehensive ordinances to prohibit dangerous secondhand smoke.”

“And in 2011, we will again ask our state leaders to step up to the plate and put Texas into the league of smoke-free states, soon to be 27 strong,” Romo said.

Last week, state lawmakers in Wisconsin and North Carolina passed smoke-free legislation, and the Governors in both states have indicated they will sign the bills into law.

Secondhand smoke kills 53,000 non-smoking Americans annually and is a known cause of heart disease, lung cancer, low birth weight, chronic lung ailments and other health problems. A 2006 report by the U.S. Surgeon General – the most comprehensive scientific report ever produced on the health impact of secondhand smoke – concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

SFT - Not this Year

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I am sad to announce that our efforts to remove smoking from all workplaces in the state will not succeed this year. After a long and hard fight it became clear that we were 1 or 2 votes shy of being able to bring SB 544 up for a debate in the Senate. I am proud of the work put in by AHA and our coalition partners to move this issue forward. I am also incredibly grateful for the level of support shown by our You're the Cure advocates on this issue.

With over 81 co-sponsors in the House and over a majority of the Senate in favor we have made significant progress in educating members and securing their support. We will continue to work on passing smoke-free laws in communities throughout Texas to further protect individuals from secondhand smoke and reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke. Thanks again for all your help on this issue.

Brian Bowser
Grassroots Coordinator

Back Again

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1:119 We're back again keeping an eye on the Texas Senate. And I've got an update...a vote could happen today...or it couldn't. We really don't know right now. Stay tuned and we'll let you know if SB 544 will be heard today.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Smoke Free Debate...Could Be Soon!

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2:58 Like within minutes

3:00 Or maybe not. Lt. Gov said his desk was clear meaining no more bills will be heard today. Waiting for clarification

3: 03 Senate has adjourned for the day. See ya tommorrow at 11 am...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Smoke-Free Update

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We were hoping and half expecting the Senate to hear debate and vote on the Smoke-Free bill today. However, the Senate has just adjourned for the day and will return on Monday at 11 am.

We need to continue to hit (not literally or anything) Texas Senators over the weekend and demand they vote on Smoke-Free Texas. Visit http://www.smokefreetexasnow.org/ to send your message today!

Brian Bowser
Grassroots Coordinator

Monday, May 11, 2009

Breaking News: Senate Committee Passes Strong Smoke-Free Bill

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I am happy to report that a strong smoke-free proposal has just been approved by a Senate committee, meaning we are still alive in the fight for clean air! After a House committee passed a weaker version last week this is an important step as we head towards the last three weeks of the legislative session.

Watch the committee vote on it below.

These bills will now head to the full House and Senate for a vote. If you haven’t already click here to tell your elected officials to pass a strong smoke-free law that will protect the whole state.

Today the Dallas Morning News ran a story on the impact that Big Tobacco is having on this issue. Over the last several months the tobacco industry has poured in between $1.2 and $2.4 million and is employing 40 lobbyists to fight common sense measures like smoke-free workplaces. Read the full story here.

Please don’t let the tobacco lobby set public policy in Texas. Click here to take action and make Texas the next smoke-free state!



Nobody said fighting Big Tobacco would be easy….

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…And its not!

It’s a fight that has been going on for decades and never seems to get any easier. Despite numerous “wins” at the local, state, and federal levels it is always a struggle to trump the big money and big influence that big tobacco always has.

In Texas the tobacco industry has pumped in between $1.2 million and $2.4 million in the last 5 months according to reports form the Texas Ethics Commission compiled by the Dallas Morning News. They have retained 40 lobbyists to defeat Smoke-Free Texas.

With around three weeks left in the legislative session we need to show lawmakers the type of support smoke-free air really has. Visit our “action site” at www.SmokeFreeTexasNow.org and let your voice be heard! We can counter Big Tobacco but only if all of us stand up and work together.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Smoke-Free Texas On Life Support...Help Us Revive It

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Our Smoke-Free bill is on life support, but you can help give it a new life. The good news is that the smoke-free proposal has been passed by a House committee. The bad news is that it contains many weakening changes. We need your help to change the bill and restore it to its original intent.

Click here to tell your lawmaker to amend HB 5!

You’ve helped us get this far, now is not the time to turn back. It is still possible to pass a strong law by amending it on the House and Senate floor, but the clock is ticking.

The current version of HB 5 is unacceptable in several ways including:

-It would provide a loophole to many businesses including most bars. Hospitality and bar workers who work in smoky environments are 50% more likely to get heart disease or lung cancer than those who work in smoke-free environments. These workers would be left out!

-It wouldn’t cover counties with a population less than 115,000. Why should workers in Dallas, Houston, and Austin be protected but not those in smaller communities? 226 counties and 5.3 million people would be left out!

-It wouldn’t allow local communities to strengthen their own city ordinances. We believe in a statewide law that would give basic protection to workers, but feel local communities have a right to pass stronger laws. This would prohibit cities from doing just that.

Please tell your lawmaker to amend HB 5 and make all of Texas Smoke-Free, not just some of it. Go to www.SmokeFreeTexasNow.org to take action and share that site with friends and family.

Sincerely,

Brian Bowser
Grassroots Coordinator


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