Conversation Begins on Smoking Bans in Campbell

Campbell City Council begin discussion on the pros and cons of smoking bans for outdoor dining and near public parks

(March 28, 2011)

campbell-patch 

March 28, 2011

Find an informational packet for the city of Campbell, and you’ll hear that 44.1 percent of residents possess a Bachelor’s Degree or higher, well above the average across the United States. But there's at least one subject where Campbell failed to make the grade: the American Lung Association’s Tobacco Control report.

Campbell received an “F” grade on the Tobacco Control Report, which indicates that the city’s municipal codes are inadequate against protecting its citizens from tobacco products. And now the city is considering tightening its policies by restricting smoking in city owned recreational areas (such as city parks and community centers), as well as within outdoor dining areas.

On March 21, the Campbell City Council held a study session on the issue. There was no final action made. Council instead asked staff to come back with an ordinance that would outline a possible ban on smoking in outdoor dining and recreational areas.

"We want to reach out to business owners and citizens to get a full discussion and hear what effect it will have on its business and on the people," said Campbell Mayor Jason Baker. " The council wants to have a full and fair debate on these smoking policies. That’s important to all of us."

Campbell’s grade is hardly exceptional: failing grades are found throughout Santa Clara County. San Jose and Mountain View both received D grades, and only County Unincorporated obtained a passing A score.

The American Lung Association (ALA) conducts a State of the Tobacco Control report on a statewide and citywide level yearly, where each states’ policies against tobacco products is matched against what is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State grades focus on four areas: the funding of tobacco prevention and control, smoke-free air laws, state cigarette excise tax, and the coverage of tobacco cessation treatments and services.

While a statewide view is helpful for policymakers to see the bigger picture, “Folks really want to know, what is my neighborhood area doing? What are the protections in my city?” says Serena Chen, the ALA Policy Advocacy Director in California.

That’s why local Tobacco Control report cards for cities like Campbell are also released.

“[The Tobacco Control report card is] like social studies or math,” Chen analogizes. The three areas or “subjects” scored on local reports are smoke-free outdoor air, smoke-free housing and the reduction of tobacco product sales.

For each category, a city or county receives a point value based on the strength of local ordinances. The points are translated into a letter grade A through F. Each criterion can receive a different grade – for instance, a city can receive an A on outdoor air but an F on reducing tobacco sales. The average of these three grades creates an overall tobacco control grade.

Why did Campbell receive such a low score? This has to do with the city’s policies regarding tobacco products and their use. The Tobacco Control report points system is based on a city’s municipal codes for the most unbiased view.

After examining the codes of every city in the state and creating a score sheet, “we sent a draft to the tobacco control centers in each county and really talked about all these nuances,” Chen said.


What Campbell has already done

In 1995, the city adjusted its smoking ordinance to reflect changes that came with the passage of Assembly Bill 13, also known as California's Law for a Smoke-free Workplace. The revision to the city ordinance made it illegal to smoke in an enclosed place of business.

In 2008, Campbell recognized that tobacco smoke was a public nuisance and banned smoking establishments such as hookah lounges and cigar shops with smoking rooms.

The current ordinance in Campbell prohibits smoking in, with these exceptions:

       Prohibited

        Exception

Elevators
65 percent hotel/motel guest rooms
Buses and other means of transport
25 percent hotel/motel lobbies
Public restrooms Private function meeting/banquet rooms (without food or beverages)
Indoor service lines Truck cabs
Hearing rooms of the city council Warehouse facilities
Within every room of a public assembly building during public meetings Gaming and bingo clubs
Health facilities Theater productions (as part of the story)
All enclosed places of employment Medical research treatment (related to smoking)

Private residences

Patient smoking areas

Employer-designated break rooms

Small businesses (fewer than five employees



Some cities get bad grades because they are not densely populated, so its citizens are not exposed to cigarette smoke often, Chen explains. Possibly residents do not find secondhand smoke offensive, or are not aware that they have a right to complain. Anti-smoking laws are complaint-driven.

And voluntary policies against smoke don’t make the grade.

Imagine, for instance, that a restaurant posted signs prohibiting smoking within outdoor dining areas. One day, a chain-smoking celebrity drops by and the restaurant decides to make an exception to the de facto “no smoking” rule. Any other diner or employee bothered by the smoke could not take legal recourse, because the city has no sanctions against it.


Why ban the smoke: Benefits vs cost

"Public health and enjoyment of an establishment is an important goal," Baker said.

Secondhand smoke has been linked to heart disease. The Office of the Surgeon General stated in a 2006 report that nonsmokers frequently exposed to high levels of secondhand smoke are 25-30 percent more likely to develop heart disease and 20-30 percent more likely to develop lung cancer.

Exposure to secondhand smoke for just 30 minutes could injure the blood vessels of young healthy nonsmokers, the University of California, San Francisco concluded in a 2008 report. This same study linked secondhand smoke’s deleterious effects on blood vessels with a decreased ability for the body to repair itself.

With the city of Campbell’s current debate on whether to limit smoking in outdoor dining areas, it’s worth it to consider this study.

"People with young families like me, want to be able to sit on the patio and enjoy our fine dining and fine weather without having to endure second hand smoke," Baker said. "Campbell is becoming more family friendly. I think a lot of smokers understand that."

Concern on the financial impact a ban can mean for local businesses was also discussed a the study session. In order to balance the potential cost of enforcement and education of any potential new laws passed, the city is also looking at a potential tobacco retailers permit.

"There will be concern that it will hurt their business," Baker said. "That people will go elsewhere. I suspect that it won’t be that great. A lot of cities are going that way. Los Gatos has already banned it and so has the county. I don’t think that our businesses are in as a competitive disadvantage as they may think."

But not everyone agrees that the timing for this type of law is right.

"I don’t think it would be a good idea for outdoor dining," says Campbell Councilman Jeff Cristina. "It seems like its not realistic and can possibly hurt our businesses and we need our businesses to thrive. When the economy rebounds, this may be something to do."

Popular outdoor dining establishments like Katie Blooms and the Spot also attract people that smoke.

"The issues with restaurants, I don’t want to be pushing people away," Cristina said. "We have Katie Blooms, in the mornings, Sunday mornings someone wants to go there with their children, after the Farmers Market, and there's smoking. That’s terrible. But if people don’t want to patronize a restaurant because of smoking, that’s your choice.

"These are places that people go to because they can have a drink and a cigarette," he said. "The two just seem to go together well."

In a discussion involving whether to limit smoking within city-owned recreational areas such as city parks, Cristina said that this too is more complex.

"Really, right now, my main quam for the parks," he said. "I like the idea, but how are we going to enforce it?"

Campbell may have received an F grade, but don’t think of a bad grade as a punishment, but a metric for improvement: the ALA Tobacco Control Report scores are simply a way to let people know how their city compares to other cities in terms of tobacco products protection.

Campbell can improve its Tobacco Control Report grade by stepping up its policies regarding tobacco control. It is up to the city and its residents to determine whether smoking is enough of a problem to justify the money and manpower required to enforce no-smoking policies.