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Smoke-free workplaces pro-worker, pro-business, pro-taxpayer, pro-life

Smoke-free workplaces pro-worker, pro-business, pro-taxpayer, pro-life
The thirteen-year-old found an ambulance in front of his home and his father unconscious. The cardiologist later told the almost-widow that if the father had been ten minutes later getting to the hospital, he would have died and that if the father resumed his three packs of Camels a day, he would not live to see his boys grow up.
A few years later, the same mother called the same son and said his father had been found at their farm near the grain bin. Decades of smoking had taken their final toll.
Two years ago during Christmas week, a man held his cigarette-addicted sister’s hand, then sat and watched as she took her last emphysema and lung cancer-tortured breath.
I was that boy and that young man.  I am that brother. 
 Because of my father and my sister, the Governor’s bill to ban smoking in the workplace that I sponsored in the Tennessee Senate was personal for me. It is also painfully personal for many of you.
But this issue is both personal to Tennesseans and part of a national battle to save lives.
From Maine to Washington to California to Florida, states are protecting their people through smoke-free workplaces. But it’s not just states on our country’s corners, not just blue states on the borders.
 Across the center of this country, in industrial states like Ohio and Illinois, people are demanding clean air and freedom from cancer-causing chemicals. Laws are changing to provide this.
In rural, freedom-loving, property-protecting places like South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, people are demanding clean air and freedom from cancer-causing chemicals.
Legislators are responding to those calls.
But it’s not just there. In Arkansas, Florida, and Georgia—three Southern states—Republican governors have recently helped pass new smoke-free air acts.  And this year in Tennessee, for the first time in our 211-year history, our Democratic governor joined those Republican neighbors in providing bipartisan leadership to protect Americans.
Giving workers clean air to breathe—air that does not give them cancer, emphysema and heart attacks—is pro-worker. That’s why workers’ organizations supported this bill.
Protecting businesses from litigation involving workers compensation, disability benefits, unemployment compensation, handicap discrimination, retaliation and wrongful discharge, class action lawsuits, and soaring health care costs is pro-business.
That’s why the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and the Tennessee Restaurant Association supported this bill.
Being pro-taxpayer means reducing the $614 tax burden from smoking-caused government expenditures that the average Tennessee family bears every year. It means fighting to save taxpayers from spending billions and billions on TennCare, Medicaid, Cover Tennessee, state employee health insurance, local government health insurance, teachers’ health insurance, university employees’ health insurance, and subsidies to hospitals from East Tennessee’s Ehrlanger to Memphis’s Regional Medical Center, which we call The Med. All of these suffer the enormous costs of smoking-related cancer, lung disease, and heart disease. That’s why three out of four Tennessee taxpayers support this new law.
Saving Tennessee’s 1,740 adults, children and babies that die each year from other people’s smoking is pro-life. Saving the 9,500 Tennesseans that die each year from their own smoking is pro-life. Saving the 132,000 children now alive in Tennessee that otherwise will die prematurely from smoking is pro-life. 
Protecting babies in the womb and mamas and daddies from the tomb is pro-life. That is why Tennessee’s hospitals, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other health care professionals supported this bill.
This year the General Assembly did something that is pro-worker, pro-business, pro-taxpayer, and pro-life. We passed a workplace smoking ban and now this law will save you money and save Tennessee lives.
We did not take this action to punish smokers.  Believe me, having watched my sister battle her addiction to the cigarettes and nicotine even as she battled emphysema and lung cancer, I have nothing but sympathy and concern for smokers, each of whom reminds me of my beloved sister. 
Your General Assembly and governor acted to help smokers quit, help young people not start, and help everyone avoid the unintended but awful consequences of second-hand cigarette smoke.
Senate Democratic Floor Leader Roy Herron represents nine counties in Middle and West Tennessee.
Published in The Messenger 10.3.07

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