Berkeley approves smoking ban

March 25, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Tuesday night, Berkeley City Council moved forward with a tough new expansion of its smoking ban.

Andronico's grocery store eliminated the sale of cigarettes, Alta Bates Hospital expanded its smoke free zone, and now this ban. It still needs a second vote to make it official, but it looks like a done deal.

Every afternoon, Barbara Roberson walks out of the Berkeley Ace Hardware store and takes her cigarette break, but a smoking ban on all commercially zoned sidewalks in Berkeley, would make this illegal.

"But what about our rights? You start out with the smoking and then you're going on to something else," said Roberson.

According to Mayor Tom Bates, the rights of non-smokers, exposed to secondhand smoke, outweigh the rights of smokers.

"This is a terrible killer, and we need to do everything we can to get people to realize that smoking not only kills the smoker but in some cases can affect people around them," said Mayor Bates.

"Out on the sidewalk, you're sucking up more exhaust walking on this street than cigarette smoke. So do we want to go to all electric cars? It's like how invasive is the city of Berkeley going to get into my life?" said Sarah Kimbrell, a smoker.

"In general, probably on a busy street the auto exhaust would be higher," said UC Berkeley environmental and health sciences professor Katharine Hammond.

Hammond, says there's an obvious cost to the notion of banning gas-fueled cars. A smoking ban has no cost, only benefits.

"We know, for instance in several cities and now several countries, which have ban smoking in restaurants and bars that the rate of heart attacks has dropped by 20 to 40 percent," said Hammond.

She says this could be the catalyst many smokers actually need.

"Certainly when they ban smoking in the work places, people were more able to quit smoking successfully," said Hammond.

Smoking is already banned in Berkeley's public parks, within 25 feet of public buildings, and 50 feet from health facilities and senior centers. However Barbara Roberson already has found a loophole in the ban on smoking along sidewalks in commercial zones.

"We have a private parking lot, so we can go over there and smoke," said Robertson.

The fine for violating the ban is $100 dollars, but it'll be enforced along the same lines as a littering violation.

This ban will make Berkeley one of the toughest places to smoke in the Bay Area.


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