SF leaders consider tougher smoking laws

July 17, 2008 7:06:31 PM PDT
San Francisco smokers are facing a one-two punch from City Hall. Proposals are being debated that take aim at second hand smoke and places to purchase cigarettes.

San Francisco smokers are already banned from lighting up inside restaurants, bars and public buildings.

Now Supervisor Chris Daly is proposing tougher restrictions, including no smoking in taxicabs, at outdoor cafes, in lines at the ATM, at farmer's markets and within 20 feet of the entrance to businesses.

San Francisco smokers are already banned from lighting up inside restaurants, bars and public buildings.

Now Supervisor Chris Daly is proposing tougher restrictions, including no smoking in taxicabs, at outdoor cafes, in lines at the ATM, at farmer's markets and within 20 feet of the entrance to businesses.

It makes Nora Voolgaris feel like a leper.

"I do respect other people's rights but at the same time smokers have rights," said smoker Nora Voolgaris.

But the city's Department of Public Health says there's no safe level of second-hand smoke.

"There's been research that shows the exposure in outdoor areas. The levels can be as toxic as indoor levels," said Alyonik Hrushow from the San Francisco Health Department.

Smokers may feel like pariahs in this city, but according to the American Lung Association, San Francisco is behind other cities including Belmont, Berkeley and Ross when it comes to trying to limit second-hand smoke.

Several supporters testified at city hall including a former smoker and throat cancer survivor.

"A person has a right to inhale but doesn't necessarily give them the right to exhale," said one supporter of the regulations.

Would business owners have to become enforcers of the proposed law? The city says no, but the Chamber of Commerce is concerned.

"It's making them either intervene or call the police on their customers and we really think it goes too far in that respect," said Carol Piasente from the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Walgreens believes what goes too far is another anti-smoking proposal submitted by the mayor. It would ban that pharmacy and Rite-Aid from selling cigarettes.

"To have the patients buy their prescription drugs in the store and also be surrounded by tobacco products really sends the wrong message," said Brian Katcher from the San Francisco Health Department.

A Walgreen's representative refused to be interviewed but wrote: "It's unfair. It penalizes a few trusted retailers in the city, and sends smokers to other establishments that have pharmacies, like grocery stores."

The full Board of Supervisors must still vote on both proposals.


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