The Coast News Group
Community Commentary

Smoke free dining should be the wave of the future

Since our sunny days and warmer weather are finally returning, it is important to salute the cities along the coast that have adopted smoke free outdoor dining policies.
For the 89 percent of San Diego County citizens who don’t smoke, the best seats in the house are in the smoke free cities of Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Encinitas.
Tom Hetherington, who lives in Carmel Valley, regularly dines in these cities. 
“If I am spending good money on eating out, I want to really enjoy my food and not have it ruined by smoke clouding the experience,” he said.
And the U.S. Surgeon General agrees with him. The recent U.S. Surgeon General report has concluded that breathing even a little secondhand smoke poses a risk to your health. Scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has designated secondhand smoke as a known human carcinogen (cancer-causing agent).
Diners aren’t they only people who suffer from smokers. A recent Stanford University study, titled “Real-Time Measurement of Outdoor Tobacco Smoke Particles,” found that people spending time near outdoor smokers over multiple hours, such as waiters, can receive exposure that exceeds the current USEPA limit on fine particulate matter pollution.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has concluded that secondhand smoke is an occupational carcinogen. There is a compelling basis to institute outdoor smoking bans to protect individuals in both commercial and noncommercial settings. Outdoor tobacco smoke has become a notable and real occupational and hospitality health issue. 
Secondhand smoke exposure in the workplace has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease and lung cancer among adult nonsmokers.  The easiest way to avoid exposure to tobacco smoke air pollution is to be located a reasonable distance away from active smokers.
For a single smoker, this distance is approximately 6-feet or more. However, if one is directly downwind from a smoker for a significant time period, the distance will have to be greater to avoid exposure.
For Monica Hanson of Carlsbad, secondhand smoke causes acute respiratory effects. She said many in her family did not enjoy eating outdoors because they have a heightened reaction to smoke from diners. 
“It isn’t fair that I can’t eat outside,” she said. “Only 11 percent of San Diegans smoke and they could wait until they are away from a public locations to smoke.  However I can’t enjoy outdoor dining at all.  I am virtual prisoner to someone else’s addiction.”
Concentrated streams of outdoor tobacco smoke can, at the very least, act as a respiratory or eye irritant. But outdoor tobacco smoke may also pose a serious health hazard for severe asthmatics even if the exposure is transient, since tobacco smoke may act as a trigger.
The Zagat Restaurant National Survey reported that customers would eat out significantly more often as a result of smoke-free restaurants.
Californians are adopting smoke-free outdoor dining policies in increasing numbers. Currently, 85 municipalities in the state of California, including Solana Beach, Del Mar, Encinitas, National City, Chula Vista and El Cajon have regulations on smoking in or near outdoor dining patios. Smoke free outdoor dining is a trend sweeping the state and the world! It’s time for the rest of the cities on the coast to follow their sister cities and ban smoking on outdoor cafes and dining patios.