Consumer Protection

News Release | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Parents Beware - Many Toys Still Toxic, Hazardous

The findings in this year’s Trouble in Toyland highlight the need for continued improvement in order to protect American’s children.

News Release | Georgia PIRG Education Funda | Consumer Protection

Blowing Smoke

Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Going Smoke-Free

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has concluded there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, the third leading cause of preventable death in America.

To reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, thousands of municipalities in all 50 states have enacted smoke-free workplace policies. In 2005, the state of Georgia joined their ranks with the passage of the Smokefree Air Act. However, Georgia’s law allows smoking to continue in select locations,
including bars and restaurants that do not serve minors under 18. As a result, many workers and citizens in Atlanta and
elsewhere in Georgia still face the dangerous health threat of secondhand smoke. 

Legislators exempted bars and restaurants primarily because of concerns that smoking restrictions would drive customers away. However, studies in hundreds of locations around the country have found that these fears are simply unfounded. Smoke-free laws have no negative effect on business at bars and restaurants—and in some cases even help.

Atlanta should join the ranks of American cities with strong ordinances restricting smoking in all places of employment, including bars and restaurants. A strong smoke-free workplace ordinance will safeguard the health of Atlanta’s workers and
public, without harming local businesses.

Scientific studies consistently demonstrate that bars and restaurants are unharmed by the implementation of smoke-free workplace ordinances.
• 100 percent of well-designed, peer-reviewed studies of smoke-free workplace policies published between 1989 and
2005 show that going smoke-free has no negative impact on sales or employment in the hospitality industry. In a
number of cases, business performance improved after the transition to a smoke-free environment.

Restricting smoking at bars and restaurants does not reduce revenue or force closures.
• El Paso, Texas, required restaurants, bars and mixed-beverage establishments to become smoke-free in 2002. In a statistical analysis that controlled for inflation and seasonal variability,
Going Smoke-Free the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention detected no change in revenues in the following year.
• Florida enacted a state-wide smoke-free workplace law in 2002. In the following months, Dr. Chifeng Dai at the University of Florida documented a 7.4 percent increase in gross sales among restaurants and catering services, after accounting for changes in population, income and the economy.

Smoke-free policies do not adversely affect employment in bars or restaurants.
• After Florida’s 2002 smoke-free law, a University of Florida study showed that state-wide hospitality employment climbed 4.5 percent after controlling for population, income growth, inflation, underlying economic conditions and for seasonal business variation.
• New York City reported a gain of more than 10,000 restaurant and bar jobs in 2003, the year after its smoke-free law went into effect.
• After restricting smoking in bars and restaurants in 2004, cities in Kentucky and Massachusetts reported no change to restaurant and bar employment.

Local smoke-free regulations do not hurt local businesses.
• Workers in restaurants and bars in Lexington, Kentucky—where officials restricted workplace smoking in 2004—earned just as much pay after going smoke-free as before. Employment levels stayed consistent, and most customers did not travel to do business in other areas of Kentucky without
smoke-free policies.
• Wisconsin’s Dane County, home to the state capital of Madison, enacted a smoke-free ordinance in 1992, at a time
when the majority of the state permitted workplace smoking. Over the next five years, tax receipts from restaurants in Dane County increased faster than the state average.

Smoke-free policies save money for businesses.
• Business owners who permit smoking in the workplace bear elevated health care and worker’s compensation costs. Asthma related to secondhand smoke alone costs the United States $773 million each year in direct medical expenses— costs borne in part by business owners.

Studies that claim smoke-free ordinances harm business are likely to suffer from poor design or conflicts of interest.
• Dr. Michelle Scollo at the VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control in Australia reviewed all published studies on the economic impact of smoke-free policies in 2003 and again in 2005. She found that studies claiming negative impacts were 20 times more likely to have no peer-review than studies showing positive or neutral economic impact. These studies tended to use subjective, anecdotal and scientifically questionable measurements to reach their conclusions.
• Moreover, 100 percent of studies claiming negative impact were funded by groups with ties to the tobacco industry, which has a clear financial stake against smoking restrictions.

Atlanta should adopt a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance for all places of employment, including bars and restaurants.
• According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, eliminating smoking from the workplace “is the only effective way to ensure that exposures are not occurring.”
• While the Georgia Smokefree Air Act allows smoking to continue in select workplaces, it does not prevent local governments from enacting stronger smoke-free policies.
• Atlanta should follow the lead of other major cities across the U.S., including Houston, Miami, New York, Baltimore and Chicago, by enacting a comprehensive smoke-free workplace ordinance.
• The ordinance should apply to areas exempted under the 2005 Georgia Smokefree Air Act, including bars and restaurants that do not serve or employ people under 18 years of age (even those with separate ventilation systems), outdoor areas of employment, long-term care facilities, all hotel rooms, and areas of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
 

News Release | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Consumer Group Alerts Shoppers to Hidden Toy Hazards

Hazardous toys are still sold in stores across the country, despite a new law overhauling the nation’s product safety watchdog agency

Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

The recall of 45 million toys and other children’s products in 2007 and continued recalls in 2008 reminded Americans that no government agency tests toys before they are put on the shelves. Specifically, the wave of recalls focused attention on the fact that the agency charged with protecting Americans from unsafe products—the Consumer Product Safety Commission—is a little agency with a very big job to do. Congress responded by passing the first major overhaul of the CPSC since it was established during the Nixon Administration, when it passed the landmark Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) in August 2008.1 In addition to expanding the agency’s budget, Congress gave the CPSC more tools to hold corporate wrongdoers accountable and speed recalls, moved toward banning toxic lead and phthalates except in trace amounts and greatly improved import surveillance.

While the new law strengthens the CPSC and contains tough new protections against toxic chemicals like lead and phthalates, these protections have not yet gone into effect. As parents and other toygivers venture into crowded malls this holiday season, they should remain vigilant about often hidden hazards posed by toys on store shelves.

The 2008 Trouble in Toyland report is the 23rd annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards. We visited numerous toy stores and other retailers to find potentially dangerous toys and identify trends in toy safety. This year, we focused specifically on toys that contain lead and phthalates in our research. 

Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Comprehensive Tobacco Control Funding for the State of Georgia

If current patterns of smoking are not reduced in Georgia, CDC has projected that 184,000 youth currently aged 0-17 in the state will die prematurely from smoking.1,2  Each year, over 10,000 Georgians die from a tobacco-related death, resulting in more than 183,000 years of life lost which costs the state over $3.3 billion in lost productivity. 1,2  Additionally, CDC estimates that for each of these premature deaths caused by smoking, another 20 Georgians are living with a serious medical illness caused by smoking.3  Together these premature deaths and over 200,000 Georgians living with serious illnesses caused by smoking result in over $1.8 billion healthcare costs each year.  But the disease, death, and economic burden from tobacco use can be reduced by funding a comprehensive tobacco control program based upon the CDC recommendations.  

Even though Georgians smoke at about the same rate as the national average, Georgians suffer disproportionately from tobacco-related diseases.  Approximately 90 percent of lung cancer is caused by tobacco smoke and Georgia’s lung cancer death rates are substantially above the national average.  In fact, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths, killing more Georgians than breast, colon, prostate and pancreatic cancer combined.  At the same time tobacco use is taking a deadly toll on Georgia citizens, scientific understanding of ways to reduce tobacco use has greatly advanced.  Over the last ten years, rigorous scientific studies have unequivocally demonstrated that a state investment in evidence-based tobacco interventions will not only reduce tobacco use, but will also reduce the burden of diseases caused by smoking, and most recently have shown an actual reduction in overall health care expenditures of approximately 7 percent. 

While the evidence is accumulating that investment in tobacco control programs reduces smoking, disease and costs, the commitment to tobacco control has declined by over 90 percent over the last few years, despite the fact that Master Settlement Agreement funding has increased. Given these facts, the Director of the Division of Public Health requested Georgia State University’s Institute of Public Health to establish a Tobacco Task Force to make recommendations on the appropriate level of funding for tobacco control and to suggest an expenditure plan.  During August of 2008 a Task Force was assembled consisting of representatives from federal, state and local health agencies, voluntary associations, non-profit advocacy groups and academic partners to review the current literature and to make recommendations for approximately $20 million of Master Settlement Agreement funding.  The Task Force provides these recommendations in the following pages and notes that a $20 million investment is substantially less than the $116.5 million investment recommended by CDC, but represents an amount that will dramatically advance tobacco control efforts in Georgia and will result in demonstrable reductions in tobacco use. 

Following the CDC guidelines, the Task Force recommends the following level of expenditures for tobacco control in Georgia.

Specific Programs Recommended Budget (in millions): 

State and Community Interventions: $8.5

Health Communication Interventions: $4.5 

Cessation Interventions: $4 

Surveillance and Evaluation: $2 

Administration and Management: $1 

Total: $20 

 

In addition to detailing the optimal way of investing $20 million to reduce tobacco use in Georgia, the Task Force also made three policy recommendations for further accelerating the reduction of tobacco use in the state and that would position Georgia as a public health leader among Southern states.  Specifically, the Task Force recommends: 

 

1. Increase the cigarette excise tax by $1 to a total of $1.37, consistent with the recommendations of 

the Georgia Cancer Plan.  

 

2. Provide nicotine replacement therapy for Medicaid patients and utilize the Federal match that is 

being used by 43 other states. 

 

3. Strengthen the current Clean Indoor Air law to prohibit smoking in all public places, assuring clean 

indoor air for the approximate 10% or restaurants and bars that continue to allow smoking. 

 

 

The Task Force is convinced that a major financial investment in tobacco control that builds upon the scientific evidence established over the last 10 years will result in a demonstrable reduction in tobacco use, tobacco deaths and health care expenditures.  The success of the program is not only dependent upon a significant financial investment, but also upon strong leadership within the state, and a competent and accountable management structure.  Georgia has the expertise in the state to establish an exemplary model program and one that will serve as a model for other southern states.  It is our hope that the recommendations provided in this report will advance Georgia’s effort to protect the health of the public in a scientific and cost effective manner. 

 

Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Total Recall

The year 2007 was called the year of the recall. But in 2008, recalls are up, according to Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data. Already, as these data show, more toys and children’s products have been recalled in the first half of this year than in the first half of last year, a supposed “100-year-flood” period. Yet the remedial CPSC reform legislation passed overwhelmingly by both the House and Senate in response to that 2007 recall wave has yet to become law. It is stalled in conference committee, where both the toy and chemical industries seek to block, weaken or delay some of its most critical reforms. This report explains why Congress needs to enact a strong final law that includes all of these key uncompleted reforms-- a new toy standard that requires mandatory safety testing for toys, a ban on toxic phthalates and whistleblower protections  -- while rejecting industry’s eleventh-hour demands to add new and unprecedented limits on state authority to enforce and enact product safety laws.

Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

For several years, we have reported that toys are safer than ever before, thanks to decades of work by product safety advocates and parents and the leadership of Congress, state legislatures and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Yet, as many have noted, 2007 has been described as the “year of the recall.” Millions of toys, including famous playthings like Thomas the Tank Engine and Barbie, have been recalled in 2007. Many of these toys have been from leading manufacturers like Mattel, and most were imported from China. Most of the recalls have been for hazards previously identified in this report—excessive levels of toxic lead, dangerous small magnets, and choking dangers.

These troubling events have reminded Americans that no government agency tests toys before they are put on the shelves. These events provide a warning that as parents and other toygivers venture into crowded malls this holiday season, they should remain vigilant about often hidden hazards posed by toys on store shelves.

The dramatic wave of toy, food and other consumer product recalls has spurred intense attention from policymakers to the problems of consumer safety generally and the limits of the long-neglected Consumer Product Safety Commission specifically. The CPSC is the nation’s smallest safety agency, yet it is responsible for 15,000 different products— from chain saws to escalators and from kitchen appliances to toys. Its current actual budget ($63 million) is less than half of what its 1974 startup budget ($34 million) would be today if merely corrected for inflation ($140 million). It has only one toy tester at its decrepit Maryland laboratory; worse, only 15 of 400 total staff (down from a 1980 peak of 978) are on duty full-time as port inspectors. That problem is exasperated because since the tragedies of September 11, customs inspectors and others that had buttressed this tiny force have been re-tasked.

In addition to expanding the agency’s budget, policymakers are planning to give the CPSC more tools to hold corporate wrongdoers accountable and speed recalls, to ban toxic lead except in trace amounts and to greatly improve import surveillance.

The holes in the product safety net can, and must be, repaired to restore the confidence of parents and other toygivers that the gifts that they purchase will bring pleasure, not worry.

The 2007 Trouble in Toyland report is the 22nd annual Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety. This report provides safety guidelines for parents when purchasing toys for small children and provides examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards. We visited numerous toy stores and other retailers to find potentially dangerous toys and identify trends in toy safety. This year, we focused on four categories of toys: toys that may pose choking hazards, magnetic toys, toys that are excessively loud, and toys that contain lead and other potentially toxic chemicals.

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Consumer Protection

Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening these lifesaving medicines. Call on big restaurants to do their part and stop buying meat raised with critical antibiotics.

Support Us

Your donation supports Georgia PIRG’s work to stand up for consumers on the issues that matter, especially when powerful interests are blocking progress.

Consumer Alerts

Join our network and stay up to date on our campaigns, get important consumer updates and take action on critical issues.
Optional Member Code