On March 24th, the Health Committee of the Virgin Islands Legislature will hear testimony on a bill that has the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of every Virgin Islands worker.
The Bill, sponsored by Senators Shawn-Michael Malone, and co-sponsored by Senator Patrick Simeon Sprauve, proposes to limit smoking in public places as well as places of employment, and will ultimately create a smoke free environment for all Virgin Islands workers.
This legislation is particularly significant because it will protect Virgin Islands workers from more than 4,000 chemical substances contained in tobacco smoke. By making the VI smoke free, it will also protect Virgin Islanders from the additional 43 Class A carcinogens identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for which there is no known safe level of exposure.
Individuals are often exposed to the health hazards created by breathing someone else’s smoke, known as ‘second hand smoke’. Others who are exposed to the hair or clothes of second hand smoke victims become victims of third hand smoke. This is important when the victim of second hand smoke may be a young mother who cradles her infant in her arms after a long day at a workplace where smoking is permitted. In this case, the infant receives exposure to the same toxic tobacco chemicals as if they had been in the mother’s place of employment.
In 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report entitled “The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke,” indicated that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Furthermore, it says that because ventilation and other air cleaning technologies cannot completely control the exposure, the only effective way to ensure that exposure to second hand smoke does not occur in the workplace is to require that the environment be completely smoke free.
AARP Virgin Islands feels strongly that all individuals living and working in the territory deserve equal protection under the law. That’s why AARP is urging all Virgin Islanders to join in the effort to make the Virgin Islands Smoke Free. We ask that residents let their Legislative representatives know that creating a Smoke Free work environment throughout the territory is a positive step toward safeguarding the health of Virgin Islanders; that it is also good for the health of our visitors; and that a Smoke Free environment is good for Virgin Islands businesses as well.
Please take the time to call, write or e-mail your Senator and ask them to vote YES on Bill Number 28-0191, the Virgin Islands SmokeFree Act, and please also ask them to make sure that all facets of the gaming industry are included in the law.
Denyce E. Singleton