CEO of Illinois' Largest Health Insurer Endorses Smoke-Free Illinois
Smoke Free Illinois Act
good for health, business
An important debate is under way in the Illinois General Assembly regarding the third leading cause of preventable death in Illinois. The Smoke Free Illinois Act — SB 500 and HB 246 — is legislation that will not only save lives but also prevent disease, diminish suffering and reduce health care costs.
As the U.S. surgeon general's 2006 report unequivocally stated, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. The heaviest exposure is in the hospitality industry, where employees are least likely to enjoy health insurance coverage and are 20% to 30% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer. Research demonstrates that working eight hours in a smoke-filled environment is the equivalent of involuntarily smoking 16 cigarettes.
The cost of diagnosis and treatment of the uninsured for diseases caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, including asthma, emphysema, stroke and cancer, falls on the taxpayer-funded public health care system, as well as on those employers who provide health care coverage for their employees. In fact, the Society of Actuaries estimates non-smokers' exposure to secondhand smoke costs America $10 billion annually.
Illinois business leaders can rest assured that this is not radical legislation that will harm local economies. Today, 16 states and more than 500 U.S. municipalities, including 31 villages here in Illinois, have passed comprehensive smoke-free laws.
As the state's largest health care insurer, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois has been a leader in advocating for comprehensive smoke-free laws. I encourage all business leaders to consider supporting passage of this important public policy.
President and CEO
Health Care Service Corp.
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