Smokefree DC is a citizen-based group whose goal is to promote smokefree environments in Washington, DC.

Smokefree DC status

Greetings. You have reached the website of Smokefree DC, the all-volunteer group that successfully pushed for Washington, D.C.,’s smokefree law of 2006. We are not active at the moment, but please enjoy the resources on this site.

Comments to FDA on e-cigarette rule

Below are the comments Smokefree DC has submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regarding the proposed rule to regulate e-cigarettes and other tobacco products:

Amid the debate over the regulation of e-cigarettes, one key question looms: How dangerous to nonsmokers is the aerosol that emanates from e-cigarettes?

Initial research shows that it might be quite harmful. It is therefore vital that the FDA require e-cigarette manufacturers to test the aerosol that comes out of their e-cigarettes and report the chemicals it contains.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • In 2009, the FDA released a warning about e-cigarettes, saying that a laboratory analysis had found that they contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals, including diethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze. The agency said that it “is concerned about the safety of these products.”
  • Renowned secondhand smoke researcher Stan Glantz determined that e-cigarette aerosol contains a host of chemicals that in California are required to carry a warning because they can cause cancer or reproductive problems. The chemicals include acetaldehyde, benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, isoprene, lead, nickel, nicotine, nitrosonornicotine and toluene.

Carol Schwartz: The bad old days of smoke-filled restaurants and bars


Carol Schwartz is back. As reported this week, she wants to run for mayor.

Many residents who moved to D.C. since she left office five years ago don’t know much about her. Others may have forgotten how she performed while on the Council.

On the issue we focus on — smoke-free workplaces — she was terrible. She blocked the first smoke-workplace bill, keeping it bottled up in her committee. She didn’t support the notion that all workers deserve to breathe clean air on the job.

A smoke-free workplace bill finally passed in 2006 after D.C. Councilmember David Catania (I-At Large), now running for mayor, drafted it and steered it through the Council. Schwartz voted against it. The law likely has saved many lives and staved off respiratory and other illnesses since it fully took effect in 2007. If Schwartz had had her way, it wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

Do District residents really want to go back to that?



FDA proposes e-cigarette regulation

The long-awaited proposed regulation of e-cigarettes by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is out. It’s a mixed bag.

On the plus side, the agency proposes requiring e-cigarette manufacturers to register with the government and provide information about what’s in their products. They wouldn’t be able to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under 18 or dole out free samples. And e-cigarette makers would no longer be able to make claims about their products being less harmful without providing scientific evidence to the FDA.

But the rule is lacking in a number of significant respects. It doesn’t ban the candy flavorings that are in e-cigarette liquid, which are widely considered designed to lure children and teens into nicotine addiction. The rule also does nothing to address marketing of e-cigarettes. And it would give manufacturers of certain tobacco products two years from the issuance of the final rule – which is still at least a year away – to comply. That’s at least three years right there. That is way too long.

What’s more, the agency is considering exempting from regulation “premium” cigars – pricey cigars that are hand-rolled in tobacco leaves. That strikes those of us in the tobacco control world as crazy.

Regarding e-cigarettes, the FDA says:

Continue reading FDA proposes e-cigarette regulation

Shallal, Graham, Allen top Smokefree DC candidate questionnaire

One thing was clear from the candidate questionnaires that Smokefree DC reviewed last week: Most candidates vying for office in the April 1 primary are spot-on when it comes to understanding some key secondhand smoke issues. At the same time, though, they are clueless about other secondhand smoke issues, often contradicting the logic they exhibited in a previous question.

In fact, we were pretty stunned by the variation within the same questionnaires — in one question, the candidate would recognize the health hazards of secondhand smoke, while in the next, he or she would express a market-forces-should-prevail opinion.

However, a few candidates stood out as fully grasping the fact that secondhand smoke is a health hazard, and that the right of nonsmokers to breathe clean air should trump a smoker’s desire to light up. Those who aced the questionnaire:

* Mayoral candidate Andy Shallal, who has been an early and longtime supporter of smokefree workplaces and made his restaurant/bar Mimi’s smokefree long before the law required him to do so;

* Councilmember Jim Graham, who also has been a longtime supporter of smokefree workplaces and  is running for re-election to his Ward 1 seat; and

* Charles Allen, who is contending for the seat of his former boss, Tommy Wells, in Ward 6.

Continue reading Shallal, Graham, Allen top Smokefree DC candidate questionnaire

E-cigarettes may be subject to Capitol smokefree policy

A move is afoot on Capitol Hill to protect nonsmokers from the unknown effects of the chemicals emitted by e-cigarettes.

According to a recent Politico story, some Democrats are calling for e-cigarettes to be included in the Capitol’s smokefree policy.

That’s absolutely the right thing to do, for two reasons:

1) We know that visible, smoke-like vapor comes out of e-cigarettes, but we don’t know exactly what chemicals are in the vapor; and

2) E-cigarettes look like cigarettes, and when they are used, they emit white vapor that looks and smells like cigarette smoke. Permitting the use of e-cigarettes in smokefree areas could cause confusion and prompt smokers of real cigarettes to light up.

The lawmakers who are pushing this sensible measure are U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and U.S. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).

They should be commended, and the D.C. Council should follow suit.

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