Gov. Janet Napolitano called smoking "one of the chief public health problems in Arizona and across the country" but refused to say whether she supports the statewide indoor smoking ban proposal before the Legislature.
The governor spoke to more than 125 people Wednesday at a session celebrating the 40th anniversary of U.S. Surgeon General Luther Terry’s landmark 1964 report that linked smoking to lung cancer and other diseases.
The American Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit research and antitobacco group whose board of directors Napolitano recently joined, co-sponsored the session.
Napolitano touted Arizona’s Department of Health Services’ tobacco control program that offers free counseling, nicotine replacement support, a statewide help line and Web site www.gocoldturkey.com, which had 14,000 hits in the past three months. She said the state has worked aggressively on smoking cessation, particularly among youth.
People from throughout the nation are attending conferences, sponsored by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies, at the Doubletree Paradise Valley Resort. Federal agencies sponsoring the conferences are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Health.
The governor said an estimated 440,000 Americans are expected to die prematurely from tobacco-related diseases this year and "We have not a moment to lose."
"We know that despite challenges at the state and federal level, we must do more," Napolitano said.
She also said the most effective way to quit smoking is to never start.
The governor said Arizona needs to keep the battle against tobacco use "on the front burner."
Napolitano refused comment about HB2629, a statewide smoking ban proposal by Rep. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson.
"There are 1,500 bills in the Legislature," she said. "We’ll wait to see if (the Lopez bill) gets upstairs."
Lopez’s measure would prohibit smoking in all indoor workplaces including restaurants, bars and pool halls.
In the past few days several members of the Legislature have come out against the bill, which must get through three committees before going to the full House.