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New legislation extends ban on public smoking

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Families and public health officials joined together this afternoon to support legislation that would expand stronger protections from smoking in public places.

A local law that bans smoking in public places and restaurants was named after Genevieve Leon Guerrero Garrett's daughter, Natasha Leon Guerrero Perez, who died of a rare form of cancer. She said, "Although 'Tash did not know her hopes for a smoke-free environment would be a law before her death. Here were are today ten years later, perhaps even more support from our community."  

Today a public hearing was held on Bill 143 to expand the Natasha Protection Act.  The measure, introduced by Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr., would prohibit smoking in bars. It also provides increased enforcement by allowing CAPE volunteers along with private security to issue citations. It further changes smoking in a vehicle when a child is present from a secondary to a primary offense.

John Ray Taitano, president of the Guam Medical Society, told KUAM News, "The time is now to stop further exposure to second- and third-hand smoking-related diseases and to galvanize the community toward making Guam the poster child for helping our children and future generations avoid smoking-related diseases."

University of Guam professor Ron McNinch however says while giving the public access to good health is well-intended, this bill needs work. "There's a lot of details that need to be worked out on this bill in order for it to be functional, and I do have some pretty strong concerns about it. I think it needs to go and really worked on with the right people in the right room to make it a piece of legislation that will work for Guam," he said.

McNinch in an email says smoking in bars is not well supported among voters. A survey of 332 Guam voters conducted this week showed 55% believe adults over 21 should be able to smoke cigarettes in bars; 44% voted 'No' and 1% had no opinion. McNinch says the question should be placed on the ballot and believes a better approach is having bars themselves go smoke-free if the market supports it.

And while senators did reach out to bars, no testimony was provided, but Rodriguez says some were not in support.

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