The man who helped win a smoking ban in five states and New York City came to Tempe on Thursday to tell activists how to lobby for a statewide ban in Arizona.
Joe Cherner, president of SmokeFree Educational Services, spoke at the first conference of the Coalition for Tobacco-Free Arizona.
Smoking ban activists are invigorated by state Rep. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, announcing last week that she will introduce legislation to ban smoking in all Arizona bars and restaurants.
"There’s a lot for us to learn," said Gail Chadwick, a member of the coalition’s executive committee. "Not only from Joe, but from other people in tobacco control who have worked in other areas of the country."
Cherner told advocates that the legislation is a good first step, but they must mobilize bar and restaurant workers as well as antismoking activists to lobby legislators.
In New York, pregnant women approached lawmakers to talk about working around secondhand smoke, Cherner said. Another waitress, who developed emphysema after working in a bar, also told her story to lawmakers, he said.
"All workers deserve the right to a safe, smokefree workplace," he said. "We’re all human beings created equally. Nobody’s health is worth more than anyone else’s."
All five states with bans on smoking in bars did it through legislation instead of an initiative or a referendum, Cherner said. They are California, Delaware, New York, Connecticut and Maine. Massachusetts likely will be the next, he said.
"Clearly within 10 years, all states except for perhaps North Carolina and Kentucky will be smoke-free," he said.