COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: Citizens praise smoke-free North County Transit District

The San Dieguito Youth Partnership, a youth prevention coalition sponsored by San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth serving the cities Del Mar, Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad, decided to find out if the North County Transit District smoke-free ordinance was working at its train stations and bus stops.
NCTD’s board of directors had voted unanimously in October 2008 to ban smoking in all transit centers, vehicles and bus stops, making all of San Diego County’s transit systems smoke-free. The San Diego Metropolitan Transportation System adopted a similar smoking ban in May 2008. The Smokefree NCTD ordinance was the first ordinance ever adopted by them.
In summer 2008, San Dieguito Youth Partnership had been joined by the North Coastal Prevention Youth Coalition sponsored by Vista Community Clinic’s Tobacco Control Program, in collecting public opinion poll of transit patrons. In 2008, they had found that 78 percent of transit patrons were bothered by litter, 73 percent were bothered by secondhand smoke and 69 percent were in favor of a no-smoking policy at all NCTD stations and stops.
Now it is the summer of 2010 and the San Dieguito Youth Partnership set out with clipboards in hand having a few simple survey questions ready for bus and train riders.
The youth asked Coaster riders at the Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside stations if they had seen smokers or cigarette litter. We also asked them if they had ever had the unfortunate experience of having to inhale a nearby smoker’s cigarette smoke.
The teens interviewed 153 people and found that 26 (17 percent) said they see cigarette litter or smokers often, 43 (28 percent) riders said they saw litter or smokers sometimes, and 84 (55 percent) riders said they never see litter or smokers. The teens were pleasantly surprised to find over half of the transit patron never saw smoking or tobacco litter.
Alarming to the teens were 33 (22 percent) riders that told them that they have inhaled smoke from someone smoking a cigarette nearby at that station. This was especially disturbing to the teen interviewers because of the larger number of teens who use the trains to come and go from school, especially utilizing the Solana Beach station.
In general, the teens were surprised by how well the transit system was so being utilized, and that often there is standing room only on the trains and buses.
Teens wanted to applaud NCTD for their clearly visible signage regarding the smoke-free ordinance at the bus stops and train stations.
The teens especially wanted to thank the maintenance and security and staff for their supportive attitude around making the smoke-free ordinance a reality. When interviewed by the teens, all the security and maintenance staff said that when they see someone smoking they tell that person to put it out or move off the grounds.
One maintenance man told us, “It’s so much better than it was before the policy because riders used to get off the train just to smoke. The conductors would announce that they could do that. The air was filled with smoke. Now folks can’t do that so it’s much better, you hardly ever see smokers.”
The teens observed that tobacco litter more often occurred at bus stops where enforcement is difficult. The good news is that the every bus stop has signage which encourages bus riders to assert their right to stand in a smoke-free zone and ask a smoker to put out their cigarette while waiting at the bus stop.

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