San Francisco takes step toward nation's most far-reaching outdoor smoking ban

Thursday, January 27th 2005, 7:10 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ From the zoo to Golden Gate Park to the stadium where the hometown 49ers play, smokers in this tourism-driven city will soon find fewer outdoor places to indulge their habits.

An expansive smoking ban approved by San Francisco supervisors Tuesday prohibits lighting up in all city-owned parks, public plazas and sports facilities except golf courses.

At least 11 other California cities and a handful of jurisdictions in other states have enacted curbs on outdoor tobacco use, but anti-smoking advocates say none is as far-reaching.

``San Francisco has been a pioneer in tobacco control for decades and continues to be a pioneer with this law,'' said Bronson Frick, associate director of Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights. ``No other city has enacted a law even close to what San Francisco is in terms of covering outdoor places.''

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the law, which would take effect July 1, said an aide to Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, the law's sponsor.

According to the ordinance, the prohibition applies to ``any unenclosed area'' that is open to the public and under city jurisdiction. That includes any ``park, square, garden, sport or playing field other than a golf course, recreational pier or other property used for recreational purposes.''

``Because we do have quite a few parks and quite a few public areas, this could be more far-reaching than people have thought about,'' said Karen Licavoli, director of tobacco control programs for the American Lung Association of San Francisco and San Mateo Counties.

City-owned golf courses were specifically exempted because Alioto-Pier said discarded cigarette butts were not as much of an environmental or health hazard on greens with dedicated groundskeepers. She said she was also concerned that a smoking ban would drive golfers and their fees away from public courses to private facilities.

People caught smoking in any of the places where the new law applies can be fined up to $100 on first offense, $200 for a second violation within the same year and $500 for each additional violation.

Smokers and their allies were unsurprisingly fired up about the new law Wednesday. Michael Sayrafi, whose father owns a tobacco store called Smoke on Polk, called it ``ridiculous.''

``Are we still living in the land of the free? It's insane,'' Sayrafi said. ``They have already taken bars away from smokers. Next they are going to say you can't smoke on the street.''

Some oceanfront communities in Delaware and Florida have followed California's lead in making beaches smoke-free zones. But Frick said only a third of Americans live in communities where smoking is off-limits in restaurants, and only a fourth in places with smoke-free bars.