Heather Knight, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
(07-15) 20:23 PDT -- Smokers would find it harder to buy their cigarettes and light up in public under two proposals under consideration by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Mayor Gavin Newsom has proposed prohibiting tobacco sales in pharmacies, including Walgreens and Rite Aid. The city's public health chief said the proposal is modeled after rules in eight provinces in Canada but has not been tried anywhere in the United States.
Supervisor Chris Daly has proposed legislation that would vastly limit areas where people can smoke.
Gone would be smoking in all businesses and bars, which now make an exception for owner-operated ones.
Gone too would be lighting up in taxicabs and rental cars, city-owned vehicles, farmers' markets, common areas of apartment buildings, tourist hotels, tobacco shops, charity bingo games, unenclosed dining areas, waiting areas such as lines at an ATM or movie theater, and anywhere within 20 feet of entrances to private, nonresidential buildings.
Mitch Katz, director of the Department of Public Health, said he strongly supports both measures - even if they are angering business owners who say it's one more example of San Francisco City Hall overstepping its bounds.
"Tobacco remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S. - period," he said. "It's government's responsibility to protect people from obvious risks."
Surprisingly, San Francisco is far behind some Bay Area cities in the fight against tobacco. The American Lung Association assigned letter grades this year to 108 Bay Area cities depending on whether they were successfully curbing secondhand smoke exposure in housing, recreation areas, outdoor dining, entryways and outdoor service areas.
Only Belmont, Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, unincorporated parts of Contra Costa County and Ross earned A grades. San Francisco scored a D.
S.F. 'way out of date'
Karen Licavoli, vice president of programs for the anti-tobacco nonprofit Breathe California and member of San Francisco's Tobacco Free Coalition, said Daly's proposals would place San Francisco among the top few cities in the state when it comes to limiting secondhand smoke.
"San Francisco's way out of date," she said. "That's why it's critical we get this law passed without amendments that water it down."
The proposed ban on pharmacies selling tobacco was approved by the Health Commission on Tuesday, and it would take effect Oct. 1 if it's approved by the supervisors. Violators would face fines of $100 to $1,000. It would apply only to pharmacies and not to grocery stores or big-box stores like Costco that also sell tobacco products and have pharmacies inside them.
Katz said the entire population patronizes grocery stores and big-box stores, but the sick are more likely to use pharmacies and are likely to be suffering from diseases exacerbated by tobacco products.
Calls Tuesday to the headquarters of Walgreens and Rite Aid were not returned.
Michael Sharpe, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local No. 648, represents workers at stores such as Walgreens and said it's not fair to have some rules for their businesses and other rules for grocery stores and big-box stores.
"I'm a nonsmoker. I hate smoking," he said. "But if you're really looking to change behavior, you're not going to be able to do it by changing the venue people buy (cigarettes) in."
Daly refused to talk to The Chronicle about his measure. His legislative aide, Lena Gomes, said business owners would have to post signs about the law and make sure their customers follow it.
Firm's owner would call cops
Gomes said the owner wouldn't have to physically remove the smoker if he or she doesn't comply, but would be responsible for calling the police. The fine would be against the smoker, not the business, and could be $500, she said.
"We don't want to put anyone out of business," she said. "We're just saying there's enough scientific evidence that there is no safe place for secondhand smoke."
Carol Piasente, spokeswoman for the Chamber of Commerce, said it's not fair to make business owners police patrons. She added that many city blocks have stores so tightly packed together, a smoker would not be able to find anywhere that's more than 20 feet away from a business entrance.
"It seems to be a solution that hasn't been thought out in terms of its consequences and how it would actually work," she said.
Smokers gathered outside the city's Main Library on Tuesday weren't happy with the idea, either.
"They've banned enough places for people to smoke," said Joey Juchemich, 33. "Pretty soon it's going to be illegal to smoke anywhere but your own home."
To get involved
Both pieces of anti-tobacco legislation will be heard by the Board of Supervisors' city operations and neighborhood services committee at 1 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, Room 263.
The plan in San Francisco
Proposed restrictions would ban smoking in public places, even tobacco shops such as Grant's Pipe Shop on Market Street, where Shola Adeyemo (above) of San Francisco is seen puffing on one of his favorite cigars.
Other city smoking rules in state
Several California cities have local smoking restrictions. Here are some of the most stringent:
Bans smoking in all units of multistory apartment buildings, including balconies and patios. Goes into effect next year.
Only city in the state to require sellers of condos and landlords to disclose to new buyers and renters the smoking designations of units and how complaints about wafting smoke are handled. Bans smoking in all common areas.
Strong limits including bans in all work sites with more than two employees, sidewalks in commercial zones, recreation areas, areas within 25 feet of doorways and windows of public buildings, and all public transportation and taxis.
Temecula (Riverside County)
Requires landlords to designate 25 percent of apartments as nonsmoking in buildings with 10 or more units. Nonsmoking units must be separate from smoking ones.
Calabasas (L.A. County)
Bans all smoking in public places, making it one of the strictest cities in the country.
Bans smoking in public parks - except, naturally, when the filming of a movie requires it.
Source: Chronicle research, American Lung Association
E-mail Heather Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org.