December 7, 2001
Contact: Bonnie Widerburg, (971) 673-1282
Technical Contact: Mel Kohn, M.D., (971) 673-0982
Oregon’s Workplaces Go Smokefree in 2002
All Oregonians to Benefit from Reduced Secondhand Smoke Exposure
On January 1, 500,000 more Oregonians will be protected from secondhand smoke on the job as a result of Oregon’s new Smokefree Workplace Law. The new law will save thousands of lives and millions of dollars.
Oregon is one of the first states in the nation to adopt a smokefree workplace law. Washington, California and Maryland also have laws prohibiting smoking in the workplace.
"All Oregonians stand to benefit from the new law in many ways," said Oregon State epidemiologist, Dr. Mel Kohn. "The vast majority of employees will be spared from breathing the more than 4,000 chemicals, including 40 cancer-causing agents, found in secondhand smoke."
The law protects Oregonians from the scientifically proven health dangers associated with secondhand smoke exposure. Oregon’s Smokefree Workplace Law protects 95 percent of Oregon’s workforce from the poisonous toxins associated with secondhand tobacco smoke on the job.
Employers also benefit because smokefree workplaces are proven to promote a healthier workforce with fewer sick days. "For Oregon’s business community, smokefree environments can result in lower health care costs and even cut down wear and tear on office equipment, carpets and furniture," said Kohn. "Plus more than 79 percent of Oregonians are not smokers so customers should have little problem adapting to the new law."
Oregon communities benefit from the new law by a reduction in the more than $1 billion in annual health care costs and lost productivity to smoking-related disease and early death.
The new law (ORS 433.835-433.990) requires nearly all employers to ensure their workplaces are smokefree and display "No Smoking" signs. Exceptions are made only for bars and taverns, bingo parlors, tobacco stores, bowling centers and hotel and motel rooms designated as smoking rooms. Oregon’s Smokefree Workplace Law extends protection to an additional half-million employees statewide not already covered by local ordinances or employer policy.
State officials report that most employers in Oregon have already adopted a voluntary smokefree policy in the interest of their employees’ health concerns. For those employers, few if any changes are necessary to comply with the new law.
Employees and the public may confidentially report violations of the law by calling a toll-free number or by alerting their county health department. The Oregon toll-free number is: (866) 621-6107. Local agencies will investigate and pursue violations of Oregon’s Smokefree Workplace Law. If a business is found to be in violation of the new law, employers face fines up to $1,000 in a 30-day period.