Good morning, and thank you for joining us on this momentous day.
It’s a beautiful Delaware day here in Rodney Square in the heart of Wilmington. We are surrounded by offices and shops and restaurants and bars. And there are thousands and thousands of people who work and spend time in them.
The people who work in the offices and shops around us and throughout Delaware have been able to able to breathe easier since the original Clean Indoor Air Act was passed by the General Assembly in 1994.
But the patrons and employees of restaurants and bars have not had the same comfort. Even those who choose not to smoke have been exposed to secondhand smoke that is known to cause a number of health problems, including low birth weight babies in pregnant women, asthma and bronchitis in children and, increased risk for heart attack.
As a state, as a nation and as a people, we are constantly growing, evolving and learning. There are many activities and items and substances we once thought of as harmless, and we now know better. Smoking and secondhand smoke now fall into that category.
As a government, we can never stop people from engaging in risky behavior themselves. But we can and should step in when that behavior endangers the health and well-being of other people.
That is the point we have reached with smoking. Cigarettes are legal and we are not abridging the right of people to smoke – though I, as someone who lost a husband to lung cancer, would prefer that they not. What we are doing is limiting the effect smoking will have on those who have chosen not to smoke themselves.
So with the signing of Senate Bill 99 today and its implementation November 27, Delaware joins a small number of states that have taken this step to combat the ills of secondhand smoke.
This is something I asked the General Assembly to consider and pass in my State of the State address this year and I am thrilled that they have done so. I asked that it be as strong and as comprehensive as possible, and it is.
But let me address those who have questioned the timing of this historic measure.
Some have said that it is hypocritical to pass a smoking ban while proposing an increase in the cigarette tax. Well, it’s not. Both are tools for reducing smoking and that’s what we want to do.
Some have also said that it was shortsighted to pass a smoking ban that may – in fact, almost certainly will – cause the state to lose revenue. As Governor, I was faced with a choice between the health of Delawareans for decades to come on one hand and having to work a little harder to make next year’s budget balance on the other. Let me tell you – that is not at all a hard choice for this Governor to make.
Governing is about making tough decisions. And good governing is about being able to make the right decision for the long-term in spite of short-term consequences. That is what we have shown we are willing to do in Delaware.
It is an unfortunate fact that Delaware is a leader in the areas of illness that are related to smoking. And that’s why Delaware must be a leader in reducing the effects of smoking, especially among those who choose not to smoke.
And let me thank and commend those who made this possible, starting with the bill sponsors, Sen. McBride and Sen. Blevins and Rep. Hudson and Rep. Valihura.
I also want to thank the Advisory Council on Cancer Incidence and Mortality, which released its landmarks report a few weeks ago, including, among many other recommendations, a call for passage of this legislation.
And I know all of those up here with me will join me in thanking the grassroots forces who truly moved this bill, from the IMPACT coalition down to individuals who called and wrote and e-mailed their elected officials.
Before I sign the bill, I am going to ask a few of these key people to come forward and make a few remarks. We’re all trying to be brief this morning as there are, unfortunately, a number of funerals that many of us must attend. Lt. Gov. Carney is not here this morning because of a family funeral in Pennsylvania, but as chair of the Delaware Health Care Commission, he is wholeheartedly behind this bill.
Another funeral this morning is for Bob Bell, who was director of government and community relations for Christiana Care for nine years. He worked hard on this bill as well and I am sorry that he could not be here to see this day.
So let me ask each of those here with me to say a few words: Sen. McBride, Sen. Blevins, Rep. Hudson, Rep. Valihura, Bill Bowser, chair of the Advisory Council on Cancer and finally Dr. Allan Waterfield, chair of the IMPACT coalition.
With my signature on this legislation, I am pleased to make Delaware one of the leading states in the nation in protecting our residents and our children from smoke.
Thank you so much to everyone who made this landmark moment possible and for joining us today. Have a wonderful and safe day.