As the program administrator for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department’s Tobacco Prevention Settlement Program, I would like to respond to your Oct. 3 staff editorial, “The Supes Snuff Out.” This editorial commented on an ordinance, proposed by the Public Health Dept., that would ban smoking within 20 feet of any workplace in the unincorporated area of the county.
The editorial does not mention that county code already mandates that 75% of all tables at outside eating areas are to be set aside for nonsmokers. This is also the current law in the cities of Carpinteria, Santa Barbara and Buellton. In addition, the city of Santa Barbara prohibits smoking in any outside area if the smoke is entering a work site, including restaurants. If your readership frequents downtown Santa Barbara, it can see that this 1995 law has not driven coffee shops and eateries out of business.
This policy is designed to limit workers’ exposure to smoke that drifts back into workplaces, and also to create smoke-free zones for the public. It acknowledges the many patrons (children and adults) who suffer from asthma and other respiratory and health problems, who require smoke-free access to restaurants, coffee shops and public buildings. This law will not change the 25% of smoking tables allowed on a patio, but we are hopeful that it will allow the 83% of non-smoking public to enjoy cleaner air.
I would like you to consider the image of patrons at a cafe holding sticks of asbestos. It is likely that other patrons would run from the cafe and employees would refuse to work there rather than be exposed to a Class A carcinogen (as defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). The owner would ask those patrons to leave and probably call the police if they didn’t.
Asbestos and tobacco are both Class A carcinogens. The difference and reason that tobacco is still sold and asbestos is not is the power of the tobacco industry. Along with efforts at the federal level to maintain sales of its lucrative product, the industry has sought to weaken or eliminate local ordinances that restrict exposure to secondhand smoke.
The tobacco industry also continually seeks to discredit scientific evidence that secondhand smoke is a carcinogen and maintains that smoking restrictions will ruin the hospitality industry. These claims are not supported by facts. The fact that secondhand smoke is a health hazard has been documented by hundreds of reputable scientific studies, including a rigorous analysis of the literature on secondhand smoke by the California EPA (http://www.oehha.ca.gov/air/environmental_tobacco/finalets.html). Since the smoke-free workplace law has been in effect in California, revenues for bars and restaurants have actually increased.
Regarding the $16,300 cost for implementing this law that your editorial states is “money not being spent on streetlights, road repairs, park maintenance or schools,” actually, this money has been allocated from our county’s proceeds from litigation with the tobacco industry. At the recommendation of the Tobacco Settlement Advisory Committee these specific funds can only be spent on tobacco-related efforts.
If you have any other questions about the proposed ordinance, feel free to call Dawn Dunn at 681-5407.
Dawn Dunn is a Tobacco Prevention Settlement Program administrator at the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.