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San Francisco Street Festivals To Be Smoke Free

By Christian Watjen
Epoch Times Staff
Created: January 16, 2013 Last Updated: January 17, 2013
Related articles: United States » West
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Cigarette butts in the streets of San Francisco in 2009. San Francisco will ban smoking at its outdoor festivals and fairs, the first big city in the United States to do so. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Cigarette butts in the streets of San Francisco in 2009. San Francisco will ban smoking at its outdoor festivals and fairs, the first big city in the United States to do so. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO—As a smoker, going to outdoor events like the Chinese New Year Parade in February will soon require a few extra breaths of fresh air. San Francisco will ban smoking at its outdoor festivals and fairs, the first big city in the United States to do so.

The goal of the ban is to prevent nonsmokers, who make up the large majority of San Francisco residents, from being exposed to secondhand smoke, which has been shown to cause cancer. The Smoke Free Street Events ordinance passed unanimously today at the meeting of the Board of Supervisors and will likely be implemented by the end of February.

Supervisor Eric Mar called the policy “a natural extension” of existing smoking bans, at a media briefing in City Hall on Tuesday. Mar is one of the sponsors and has initiated numerous other health-related policies in the past.

As one of the strictest cities, San Francisco has passed bans for more than a dozen indoor and outdoor spaces, including golf courses and charity bingo games.

Mar cited studies that have shown that outdoor second-hand smoke can reach toxicity levels similar to indoors, due to the close proximity to other people at such events.

The policy was drafted by the city’s Department of Public Health together with Breathe California, a local nonprofit organization promoting lung health, and in consideration of input from event organizers. 

The ordinance will require event organizers to post signage, make regular announcements during the event, and make it clear in any promotional materials that the event is smoke free. Private block parties will be exempt. 

The measure has not met with any organized opposition in a city where 89 percent of its population are nonsmokers.

There are no direct fines for attendees or organizers who do not comply. Karen Licavoli, vice president of program development at Breathe California, who attended the same media briefing, said she expects a gradual shift in behavior by self-enforcement.

Licavoli said, she believes smoke-free events will become equally socially acceptable over time. It should be similar to how existing smoke bans became successful without needing any enforcement agency to check on every restaurant or bar—public indoor places have become smoke free over the last few decades. 

Mar called the approach “a community education process.”

The measure has not met with any organized opposition in a city where 89 percent of its population are nonsmokers. 

However, for the event organizer there might be consequences for noncompliance. The city agency ISCOTT could, upon review, revoke any future permits for events.

Breathe California conducted surveys with the help of students from San Francisco State at several San Francisco outdoor festivals in 2011. The surveys revealed that 59 percent of participants are annoyed by second-hand smoke at events, and 67 percent support having street events be smoke free.

Licavoli stressed that the policy is “not punitive against smokers,” since everyone is welcome to attend any festival. Smokers can choose to not smoke for a few hours or they can step out of the closed-off perimeters. 

On Tuesday, another smoking-related ordinance was passed, requiring property owners to reveal to prospective tenants whether smoking is allowed in apartment units, a measure supported by renters and landlords alike. 

Other outdoor spaces where smoking is banned in San Francisco include near private nonresidential building entrances, on playgrounds, public parks, golf courses, waiting lines, transit stops, farmers markets, and sports stadiums.

A number of smaller cities in the Bay Area, such as Alameda and Union City, have already implemented similar smoke-free policies for street events.

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