On Oct. 10, the New York City Council held a hearing on the Smoke Free Workplace Law (Intro 256). The law would prohibit people from smoking in restaurants, bars or nightclubs.
Currently, New York City law provides most workers with a smoke-free workplace, except for some office workers, some restaurant workers and all bar and nightclub workers. Intro 256 would extend the current smoke free law to cover all workers, even bartenders and musicians.
Local 802 strongly supports this legislation because of the many concerns that musicians have about the adverse effects of secondhand smoke. At the Oct. 10 hearing, union members and staff spoke out in favor of the legislation.
One of the points musicians made was that when playing an instrument, particularly in the horn section, a musician is required to breathe in additional oxygen. And all musicians physically exert themselves during a performance. This exertion increases their breathing rate and increases their exposure to secondhand smoke.
“Many of our members who work in jazz clubs and hotel bars have complained to us about the difficulty of playing their instrument in a room filled with smoke,” said President Bill Moriarity. “Unfortunately, the reality is that most of our members have the choice of either working in a smoke filled room or not working at all.”
The union has also heard complaints from Broadway pit musicians, many of whom have developed serious respiratory conditions from the smoke used for special effects. One member developed such severe health problems from smoke and fog on Broadway that she was unable to work and was awarded workers’ compensation.
“All workers deserve a safe, healthy, smoke free work environment,” said Public Relations Director Heather Beaudoin. “No one should have to breathe tobacco smoke pollution to hold a job. The health of all workers is equally important. No one should be allowed to make someone else sick.”
For the latest updates on the law and the union’s effort in this campaign, contact Heather Beaudoin at ext. 176.