SF supes consider expanding anti-smoking laws

February 1, 2010 6:37:54 PM PST
San Francisco supervisors are considering a measure to make it harder than ever for people to light up, even if they are smoking outside.

San Francisco likes to think of itself as a trendsetter, but there are more than a dozen other California cities that have tougher provisions including Belmont, where people cannot even smoke in their own apartments. That provision was considered and then taken out of this proposal, but there is more than enough left in to create controversy.

The popular San Francisco restaurant called the Mars Bar sells cigarettes which, unless the new law is enacted, diners can smoke on the patio.

"I think the biggest affect will be the fact that it'll go out to the sidewalks. It'll affect neighbors. It'll affect businesses. It'll affect the littering on the streets," says employee Jenny Kiely.

A small crowd, mostly from Chinatown, gathered at City Hall Monday calling for new protections against second-hand smoke. An anti-smoking coalition has been pushing for tighter restrictions for nearly two years.

"Last year, one of our supervisors asked how far a person would have to go to smoke and I said, 'How far does a person have to go to breathe clean air? That's the issue,'" says Carol McGruder with the Tobacco Free Coalition.

Supervisors Eric Mar and John Avalos are sponsoring the measure which includes bans on lighting up on restaurant patios, in line at ATMs or movie theaters and farmers markets. Outside office and apartment buildings, smoking would be restricted to the curb.

"Recent studies show that second-hand smoke is just as damaging in outdoor areas as indoor or enclosed areas. So, it's absolutely necessary," says San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar.

Cigar bars like the Occidental would be grandfathered in. Smoking would still be allowed, but if the owners sell, that exemption would end, reducing the value of the business.

Bob Lofroos says, "They purposely wrote it that way. They want us to eventually go away."

He and many other business owners testified at a hearing Monday.

"If you don't provide a place where people can smoke and not bother people, they're going to be smoking where they are bothering people," says smoker Mike Ege.

Building owners would have to post "No Smoking" signs and the Health Department would respond to complaints. Another hearing is set for later this month to give the supervisors a chance to hold more talks with everyone involved.