Before the Virginia Clean Indoor Air Act passed in 1990, there was smoking everywhere in Virginia -- where you went to vote, to pay your taxes, in the hospital emergency room waiting area, in hospital lobbies including the lobbies on the cardiac surgery floor, in elevators, in schools and colleges and daycare centers, in restrooms, in state tourist rest stops, in grocery stores large and small, in pharmacies, in banks, in the hallways and lobbies and committee rooms of the General Assembly, in the Capitol building itself next to people and priceless art works, in theatre lobbies, in restaurants, in the train station and on the trains, in the airport and on the airplanes, on buses, EVERYWHERE. You could not escape the smoke.
At one time in the history of the U.S.A., smoking was not the norm. People would not smoke around others as a rule, that was considered rude, especially in someone else's home.
Looking back hundreds of years, King James I in England in 1604 wrote a book, a copy of which is on display at Agecroft Hall in the west end of Richmond, Virginia. That book from the 17th century was entitled A Counterblaste to Tobacco, in which he denounced smoking at the dining table as foul, and he commented on how he had seen the blackened lungs of a deceased smoker. But alas, he did not stop smoking in public, though he sought to tax tobacco. Probably the most famous quotation from this 1604 book on smoking is this one:
... harming your selves both in persons and goods ... A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.By the way, Agecroft Hall, which had been a mansion in England in the 15th century, but centuries later had fallen into disrepair, was sold at auction to T.C. Williams in 1925, and was transported brick by brick from England to Richmond, Virginia, utilizing money that T.C. Williams had earned from the tobacco industry.
If you live in or travel to the Richmond area, you will want to see many things, including the house and gardens of Agecroft Hall, quite lovely, especially in the spring and summer, and no-smoking is allowed in the house.
But as they say, meanwhile, back in Virginia and the U.S.A. in general, smoking became the norm -- and books and articles have been written about what brought about this change, apparently by the advertising of the tobacco industry, and by the sudden growth of smoking in movies of the times, not accidental it seems.
Fast forwarding to the 1980's and 90's, the only Virginia state law before 1990 on no-smoking was one that required no-smoking where food was being prepared.
The only state policy on workplace smoking that the Virginia State Employment Commission had was one written by Philip Morris which stated that there must be no-smoking around flammable chemicals and oxygen.
The first group in Virginia to begin work on no-smoking in public legislation at the state level was Virginia Group to Alleviate Smoking in Public, Inc., Virginia GASP, a non-profit group, with no paid salaries and all volunteers, formed in late 1985.
This then is the story of how a few people who want to breathe smoke-free air even in public formed a group, put out newsletters, and by doing so were joined by many other people responding to the need to have no-smoking around living things. Together they achieved more success than the tobacco industry thought possible. They made a positive difference by working with many citizens and with some compassionate legislators and succeeded in getting a state law to have no-smoking in many places.
In order to achieve a state law, they had to battle the tobacco industry, and as it turned out, they also had to stand firm against the Virginia divisions of the American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, and the American Heart Association. The latter three groups at times worked with Virginia GASP and at times against them and the public, such as in the lung, cancer, and heart groups' support of a smoking bill in 1990 which failed. Those three health groups admitted that they accepted money from tobacco companies to fund their work.
The beginning of Virginia GASP
It was January, 1985, and a friend who knew that Anne Morrow Donley did not only dislike smoke, but was sickened by it, phoned her to let her know that Delegate Bernard S. Cohen (Democrat, Alexandria) had a bill on no-smoking that was to be heard soon by a committee chaired by C. Hardaway Marks, a cigar smoker who smoked his way through meeting after meeting.
Anne had been active in other civic
issues before, and although a Virginian by birth, she had lived with
husband and son for a time in South Carolina. There, in the
1970's, they had been part of a GASP group there that was funded by the
local South Carolina division of the American Lung Association.
Her husband, Clark, had been
president of that group. When they had eventually returned to
Virginia, and the smoke was everywhere, Anne had remarked to Clark that
"if someone else doesn't start a GASP group here, I may have to do it."
So, on hearing about and getting a
copy of this bill, sure to die a premature death in the committee, Anne
launched out, deciding it was time to have a Richmond GASP. She
called a number of friends who also were
sickened by smoke. She gave them the bill number, the committee,
the people to phone, and she said, "I've just started Richmond
GASP. Want to be a part of it? No dues, just action."
They agreed to be members of Richmond GASP. They called to
support the bill.
Anne went to visit Delegate Cohen,
introduced herself, and told him she had people calling on behalf of
Richmond GASP to support his bill. She then sent out a press
release. At the hearing on the bill, a television reporter showed
up from a local television studio. Of course, anyone who has
ever attended legislative committee meetings knows that they discuss
and one never knows exactly when a particular bill will be heard, since
some of the timing depends on the schedules of the various legislators
whose bills are to be discussed. They may be in other committee
rooms or even serving on committees at that time.
The room was filled with smoke.
The clock ticked on. The reporter, with a deadline to meet was
desperate. She offered to make a deal with Anne. "Let us
interview you," she said. "We'll do two interviews. One of
you very happy because the bill passed. The other one of you very
sad because it failed."
Astounded, Anne refused, "That
wouldn't be honest." The reporter left.
And what happened with the
bill? Delegate Cohen entered the room, and beckoned to
Anne. Stepping away from everyone, he told her that his bill,
which would have permitted any state agency that wanted to do so to
post a NO SMOKING sign, was not needed after all. Director
of General Services, Donald Hamner, had told him that state agencies
could already post these signs, thus, the aim of his bill could be
achieved administratively, and legislation was not needed. So he
was letting Anne know that he was withdrawing the bill. And he
added, he would watch to make sure everything worked out as planned.
The bill was withdrawn, the Assembly session went on for its short duration of the winter. And Anne's beloved father died in February of that year. All focus was on the family, and grief, and moving through time.
It was much later that year when a
arrived from Delegate Cohen -- the Division of Motor Vehicles had
posted NO SMOKING signs, but the tobacco industry objected loudly, and
the DMV removed the signs. Legislation, it appeared, would be
necessary after all. Delegate Cohen wrote, urging Anne to let her
know what was happening.
Another letter had also arrived that
same week, this
time from a national non-smokers' rights group, which Anne and her
family supported, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), led by John
Banzhaf, an attorney and professor in the Washington, D.C. area.
His group was hosting the First World Conference on Nonsmokers' Rights,
to be held in October of 1985, and its theme was helping people start
nonsmokers' rights groups, and to network with those already in
existence. Anne signed up, with Richmond GASP by her name.
The conference was wonderful,
attended by people from around the nation, and some from other
countries. At the break time, Anne heard her name called over the
loudspeaker, asking that she come to the back of the auditorium.
There were other people who had traveled from Richmond, Virginia to
this conference, and they wanted to know about Richmond GASP.
Anne told them. They all decided to meet again in Richmond, and
form a state group.
So they did. Henry
Plaisance, Ernest Bowen, Carolyn Bowen, and some others who
didn't want their names mentioned for fear they would lose their jobs,
met, and worked out a plan of action, including getting the name of the
group, other members, and what research would need to be done.
In deciding on a name, they looked at
the names of other nonsmokers' rights groups, FANS -- Fresh Air for
NonSmokers, and some GASP groups with different words for the letters
of the name, such as Georgians Against Smokers Pollution, and
others. Each group was autonomous. The only national
nonsmokers' rights group
at that time was ASH. After thinking of various names, it was
decided to use the GASP acronym, but to have it stand for Group to
Alleviate Smoking in Public. A similar name had once been used by
Marilyn Kozak of Northern Virginia, but she agreed to allow them to use
the name. And to emphasize that it was a
statewide group, they added Virginia to the name. Virginia GASP
had been born. Richmond GASP was a memory.
The first newsletter was issued in
January of 1986, and there was an overwhelmingly positive
So many people it seemed had been told by managers of businesses, by
their supervisors, by people who ran the grocery store and the bank and
the hospitals, that "You are the only one bothered by the smoke.
No one else has complained, just you." But now, with Virginia
GASP, they realized they were not alone anymore in their fight to
breathe air, not smoke.
More on the history will be added soon -- a bill introduced in 1987 by Delegate George Grayson (Democrat, James City County, Williamsburg, etc.) to have no-smoking areas in hospitals, which failed in committee. The state clean indoor air act introduced in 1988 by Delegate Bernard S. Cohen and Senator Thomas J. Michie, Jr., which eventually passed in 1990, and signed by Governor L. Douglas Wilder, who made his offices and the third floor of the Capitol no-smoking. Various amendments including the most recent one in 2009 to make restaurants (and bars) no-smoking followed, and Governor Timothy Kaine in the early days of his administration made an executive order making all state buildings no-smoking.
ahead of history for a moment, and taking a look back across the years,
one can see the many changes between 1986 and 2010. With the
of the no-smoking law in 1990, thanks to legislation carried by
Delegate Bernard S. Cohen (Democrat, Alexandria) and Senator Thomas J.
Michie, Jr. (Democrat, Charlottesville, Albemarle, etc.), there was no
longer smoking everywhere. Instead, businesses
and government agencies were required either to be totally no-smoking
or to at least follow a bare minimum of rules on providing no-smoking
areas. It was easier for many of them to simply go totally
no-smoking, and they could do so without fear of reprisal from Philip
Morris since it was now a law. A deeper look at the law and the
story surrounding it also will be added soon.
restaurants of 50 seats or more were required to at least have a
no-smoking area, it was not until Governor Timothy Kaine (Democrat)
broached an agreement in 2009 with Speaker of the House William J.
Howell (Republican, Fredericksburg, etc.) that restaurants and bars in
Virginia were required to be totally no-smoking. Legislation like
this had failed before, but this time, the agreement was that if a
restaurant owner wished to do so, a separate room with separate
ventilation could be built for smoking and no staff would be required
to work there. While not perfect, the bill passed, and became law
on December 1, 2009, and like the 1990 law which began it all, this
legislation had a positive impact on the health and lives of many, many
people, who could now dare to breathe and work and shop and dine and
vote without encountering second or thirdhand smoke and its many toxic
Between 1986 and 2010, there have also been many changes as regards the power of the tobacco industry, which is still quite strong. According to The Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Greater Richmond Partnership, Inc., as of May 4, 2009, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, Altria, is currently Number 7 among the top employers in the Richmond, Virginia metropolitan area. Altria did not exist as such until 2003 when Philip Morris split off Kraft and then split Philip Morris into the domestic and the international, creating Altria, and Philip Morris International.
A few decades ago, in the 1980's, the
top private employer in the Richmond metropolitan area was Philip
Morris, which had the main manufacturing plant on Bells Road off of
I-95. There were other Philip Morris plants also in the Richmond
In addition, Philip Morris in the
several food and other non-tobacco companies, such as General Foods,
and Kraft. Thus, they were not just a tobacco company. They were a
tobacco company that had made so much money from manufacturing and
marketing addictive and lethal tobacco products that they could now
afford to buy up food
companies, real estate companies, financial companies, and other
companies. The Philip Morris slogan then and now
was, "I came,
I saw, I conquered."
of several types of
companies gave them very much clout with the media, with all levels of
and with other businesses, and not just in Virginia, but throughout the
nation. Their advertising of both the tobacco and
the non-tobacco items supported many magazines, newspapers, small
papers, small weekly papers, television, and radio. So, for example,
even if a magazine refused to accept tobacco
ads, they might still have ads for General Foods or Kraft or Nabisco
(owned by RJ Reynolds for a time, then later by Philip Morris for a
Decades later a number of magazines,
such as MS., noted that their editorial policy on the stories
used in the magazines was influenced by the huge advertising budget
supplied by the tobacco companies and the strings attached.
When gifts and campaign donations to legislators at the state and national level were made, these gifts came from tobacco companies as well as from these food, etc. companies, owned by tobacco, and their CEOs, and the lobbyists who were all a part of the tobacco industry "family" of companies.
Although some people would comment that they thought they could encourage Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds to get out of the tobacco business by buying some of the food and other non-tobacco products, Virginia GASP in its newsletters reminded them that buying these products gave the tobacco companies more political and media clout from owning those companies. And why, some reasoned, would you buy anything owned by a tobacco company -- could you trust their non-tobacco products to be safe since their tobacco products addicted and killed when used as intended?
To be continued.
In 1988, [Delegate Bernard S.] Cohen made history in Virginia by introducing the Virginia Clean Indoor Air Act to provide some smoke-free areas, such as school buses, elevators, jury deliberation rooms, and hospital emergency rooms, and designated no-smoking areas in public places including the workplace, restaurants, and state buildings. Noting that this is a health issue, Cohen said nonsmokers and most Virginians do not want to breathe other people's smoke. Some General Assembly members were quoted in the press as favoring "wealth" over "health", stating they fear the loss of tobacco jobs if smoking is restricted in restaurants and the workplace.
At the hearing on this bill, 200 employees of Philip Morris were bused in on company time, wearing black badges with white lettering, "Bad for Virginia". Kevin R. Cooper, M.D., a lung disease specialist, said that 10,000 Virginians die each year from cancer, heart, and lung diseases directly caused by tobacco use, and some of these deaths are due to passive smoking. Cohen pointed out that 41 states, including some tobacco states, had enacted some regulations on public smoking, and Virginia has none. The bill was amended by a substitute in the House, went to the floor of the House, and Delegate Lewis Parker led the move to send it on a voice vote to the General Laws Committee, where it was held over to the 1989 session. The bill had also been introduced into the Senate by Senator [Thomas J.] Michie, and was held over to 1989.
During the 1990 session, the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act was introduced in both houses sponsored by Cohen and Michie. Cohen's bill was narrowly defeated in parliamentary maneuvering with one introduced by Del. Richard Cranwell (D-16). After compromise between Michie, Cohen, and Cranwell, the bill passed both houses overwhelmingly. It establishes a mandate to provide no-smoking areas in all state and local government buildings and in educational and health care facilities; prohibits smoking in elevators, public school buses, common areas of public schools, hospital emergency rooms, local and district health departments, polling rooms, indoor service and cashier lines; requires no-smoking areas in restaurants of 50 seats or more and in businesses with 15,000 sq. ft. or more. There is a $25 civil penalty for violations. Local ordinances passed after this bill became law must conform to the limitations imposed by the law. A "gentleman's agreement" between Michie, Cohen, and Cranwell permits only "technical amendments" to the bill before 1992.
In 1985, Cohen received publicity for two items. First was for his comparative negligence legislation, which was unsuccessful. Second was for introducing a bill to permit the posting of no-smoking signs in state buildings. When assured by the Director of General Services, Donald Hamner, that state agencies already possessed the power to post such signs, Cohen withdrew his bill. Later in 1985, the Division of Motor Vehicles received much publicity and comment from the tobacco industry for posting no-smoking signs in the lobby area, and removed them.
... In 1988, Cohen made history in Virginia by introducing the Virginia Clean Indoor Air Act to provide some smoke-free areas. An identical bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Michie (D-25). The bills were held over to 1989. The House bill was narrowly killed in the House General Laws Committee, and the Senate bill was killed in the full Senate by one vote.
During the 1990 session, Cohen saw his efforts pay off with the passage in Virginia of the first statewide restrictions on public smoking. Cohen and Michie were again the chief sponsors of the bill. Cohen's bill passed the House General Laws Committee 13 to 5, and was narrowly defeated in parliamentary maneuvering with one introduce by Del. Cranwell (D-16). After compromise between Michie, Cohen, and Cranwell, the bill passed both houses overwhelmingly. It establishes a mandate to provide no-smoking areas in all state and local government buildings and in educational and health care facilities; prohibits smoking in elevators, public school buses, common areas of public schools, hospital emergency rooms, local and district health departments, polling rooms, indoor service and cashier lines; requires no-smoking areas in restaurants of 50 seats or more and in businesses with 15,000 sq. ft. or more. There is a $25 civil penalty for violations. Local ordinances passed after this bill became law must conform to the limitations imposed by the law. A "gentleman's agreement" between Michie, Cohen, and Cranwell permits only "technical amendments" to the bill before 1992.
Macfarlane unsuccessfully sponsored a tobacco industry bill which would have mandated smoking areas in public places.
... The district's main crops are tobacco and grain. ...
This tobacco belt Democrat fought long, hard, and unsuccessfully to pass his own bill backed by the tobacco industry to mandate smoking areas, to negate non-smoking laws in the 22 localities which already have placed restrictions on smoking. He then worked with Sen. Macfarlane (D-21) to amend Macfarlane's bill into the same sort of legislation, but it was defeated by the Senate. He and other legislators, including Del. Cranwell (D-14), succeeded in limiting health legislation by localities in no-smoking regulations for the second year in a row, by forcing a compromise on the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act.
Cranwell has a reputation of being a combative legislator who loves politics. He is also known as a master coalition builder and deal-maker. ...
In 1990, Cranwell sponsored 50 measures, including 45 bills and five resolutions. 22 of his bills and three resolutions passed. Among these bills was a constantly changing indoor clean air bill which limited the ability of local governments to enact no-smoking legislation, a proposal supported by the tobacco industry. Cranwell admitted in committee meetings and on the floor of the House that he does not see the issue as a public health issue. When the Tri-Agencies of the American Heart, Lung, and Cancer groups gave him a letter to read to the House stating that they supported his bill, it forced the necessity for a compromise between Cranwell, and the more protective bill sponsored by Sen. Michie (D-25) and Del. Cohen (D-46).
Cranwell was featured in media articles in 1990 which noted intensified "hostage taking" of bills. In his efforts to have his version of the indoor clean air bill passed, Cranwell reportedly threatened child care and gun control legislation, bills affecting Sen. E. Miller (D-34), Sen. Stallings (D-8), and Sen. Calhoun (R-30). Indeed, Stallings, who supported the Michie bill over Cranwell's version, found his gun control bill endangered. Calhoun, another Michie supporter, reportedly said he no longer cared for the hostage game, and would vote as he saw fit.
In 1988, Philpott lit his pipe in timely fashion to underscore his opposition to a much modified Clean Indoor Air Act. On a voice vote it was sent back to a committee, which presumably would have killed it, since that committee was not scheduled to meet again. However, the committee did meet, and held it over to 1989.
Cohen's bill  for the enforcement of the Virginia Indoor Clean Air Act was amended and passed both houses, but the conference report failed by one vote in the Senate. The failed provision would have made the enforcement civil, and put the responsibility on the Commonwealth's Attorney.