AMA calls for workplace smoking ban

The Association will push for action at every level of government.

By David Glendinning — Posted Dec. 5, 2005

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Dallas -- After a group of American Medical Association members proposed a lobbying campaign aimed at banning smoking in bars and restaurants, delegates went even further by setting their sights on any place where people work.

The AMA will "actively support national, state and local legislation and actively pursue regulations banning smoking in all workplaces" under a resolution adopted during the Interim Meeting in November. Under existing policy, the Association already supported physicians and state medical societies in their efforts to lobby for smoke-free public places and businesses.

Original resolution language introduced by the AMA's medical student section would have focused the lobbying initiative on banning smoking in any place where food or drink is sold and consumed on the premises. But physicians felt that this designation did not go far enough, said AMA Trustee Robert Wah, MD.

"Our goal was to make sure that we are able to rid the workplace of these very toxic and dangerous chemicals that are in cigarette smoke," he said. "There was a recognition that there was no reason to limit it simply to people that gather together for eating ... and the public workspace needed to be protected, regardless of whether it's an eating establishment or a working establishment."

The Association's leaders hope they can help increase the number of places in which smoking bans exist, Dr. Wah said. Twelve states and a number of cities have approved such workplace prohibitions, according to the group.

Physicians fearful that tobacco companies would use any federal smoking laws to preempt stronger state or local statutes added a provision in the resolution calling on the AMA to work to prevent such a move. Doctors concerned about cigarette smoke causing or exacerbating non-cancerous respiratory conditions also prompted the delegates to remove language identifying the threat posed by carcinogens as the primary reason for a workplace smoking ban.

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