Earlier this year, legislation making Virgin Islands workplaces smoke free was passed by the Legislature and enacted into law by Governor John deJongh. While few residents reacted to this landmark legislation, it is interesting how the management at the Casino at Divi Carina Bay reacted to the legislation. Instead of waiting until the law goes into effect in 2011, they have already gone smoke free. We applaud their decision to protect their employees.
I feel AARP would be remiss if it did not formally acknowledge the wisdom displayed by our public policymakers for having pursued this legislation to vastly improve the working conditions of VI employees. This deep sense of appreciation also needs to also be extended to our elected officials on behalf of the children of those workers and the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to our shores each year.
AARP views Act 7171, the Smoke Free Virgin Islands law, as a win-win situation. Through this law, we have improved the health of our people and have potentially reduced future health care costs. Prevention is by far the least costly and most effective way to combat life threatening illnesses such as cancer, which has unquestionably been shown to result from exposure to smoke-filled environments. Throughout the advocacy campaign conducted by the Coalition for a Smoke Free Virgin Islands, coalition members cited various national studies that indicated that smoking tobacco products impacted not only the smoker, but also those adjacent to the smoker. These persons have, until the passing of this legislation, been forced to breathe in the second hand smoke in the immediate environment. They unknowingly have carried it home as third-hand smoke on their clothes and in their hair and shared it with other vulnerable individuals like elderly parents or very young children.
By enacting the Smoke Free law, the Virgin Islands have broken the chain of toxin transmission and we have saved countless numbers of persons from suffering needlessly. I cannot think of any other single piece of legislation that has more directly touched so many lives or has produced a greater impact on the health and quality of life of all current and future Virgin Islanders. So, it is with sincere appreciation that I extend AARP VI’s heartfelt gratitude to sponsoring Senators Shawn Michael Malone and Patrick Simeon Sprauve for having championed this proactive legislation, and for Senators Usie Richards and Terrence “Positive” Nelson who provide support to the Smoke Free Coalition during the months of revision. Our membership would also like to say thank you to the remaining members of the 28th Legislature who rose to the occasion and voted positively for this bill’s passage.
And finally, AARP VI would like to thank Governor John deJongh for also ensuring that henceforth all working Virgin Islanders shall breathe clean air.
Editor’s note: Denyce E. Singleton is the senior state director of AARP Virgin Islands.