Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Smoking bans being extended to multiunit housing

Right: "Smoke Free Zone" notice in a bus shelter in Boise, Idaho.  In Boise, smoking is banned in a 25 feet zone around bus shelters.

As a nonsmoker, it bugs the s*** out of me to be at a bus stop or outside a subway station or on riding the Metropolitan Branch Trail or entering or exiting a building entry near which smokers are clustered, and having to travel through and smell cigarette smoke.

People talk about smokers "rights" but the reality is that smoking smells and people don't have a right to impose this smell, not to mention the negative health impacts, on others.

Obviously there are health impacts from second hand smoke (Secondhand Smoke Exposure andCardiovascular Effects: Making Sense of the Evidence from the Institute of Medicine).  And instances where smoking bans were passed, then repealed have demonstrated through hospital admissions data that during the period of the ban, heart attacks dropped.

And who would have believed over the last 10 years that so many communities have banned smoking in restaurants and bars (and clubs) and what an incredible difference that makes for people who don't smoke--a majority of the public.  Although restaurant trade groups continue to claim that there are negative economic impacts from such bans, while a University of Michigan study of the sales tax revenues of such establishments, pre- and post- ban found no reduction in sales.

See "Smoking gun? Study shows little impact from smoking ban, but trade group pushes for options" from MiBiz and the study, The Economic Impact of Michigan’’s Dr. Ron Davis Smoke Free Air Law: A Report to the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Of course there is still the patio issue, but--I tend to sit on the patio at Cosi on Capitol Hill on Mondays and read the previous week's Wall Street Journal and New York Times--I have noticed, at least in some areas, a huge decrease in the amount of smokers that I encounter, some days while I am sitting not one smoker goes by.  (Whenever I travel to Baltimore, I always notice the significantly greater number of smokers there, compared to DC.)  Also see "Smoking ban proposed for Toronto restaurant patios, sports fields" from the Toronto Star.

In fact, when I travel it becomes noticeable when communities allow smoking in bars and restaurants and we specifically seek out those places where smoking is prohibited.  And of course, hotels frequently are nonsmoking or segregate smoking rooms from nonsmoking rooms--however, integrated ventilation systems may mean that nonsmoking rooms aren't really, if the air to your room passes through areas serving smokers.

And many communities are considering or have banned smoking in public parks ("King County considers smoking ban in parks" Seattle Post-Intelligencer," "Smoking ban in parks," Atlanta Forward, "Group faults proposed smoking ban in NYC park" from the Wall Street Journal, and "Give green light to park smoking ban" from the Philadelphia Inquirer).

The City of San Rafael in California has recently passed legislation banning smoking in private multiunit housing facilities, down to the level of duplexes.  See the Reuters story, "California city bans smoking in multi-family homes."

The article suggests that this type of initiative could spread, that perhaps with San Rafael now being the ninth municipality in California to pass such a ban, a tipping point of interest in such policies is being reached.

I do have some concerns about this in terms of regulating behavior within one's home.  However, the issue needs to be considered in terms of how someone's choices impose negative impacts on others.

Right: image from the EPA Greening the Apple blog entry "Cigarettes: When did it become ‘OK’ to Litter?."

And frankly, I don't like living next to smokers because you can smell it (I don't now, but the adult son of a neighbor smokes and when he's home, it's noticeable) and typically people litter the sidewalks with cigarette butts etc.  See "Cigarette Butts - Tiny Trash That Piles Up" from the New York Times.

Multiunit buildings could create separate areas for smokers and nonsmokers, just like hotels, and charge more for the costs of providing separate ventilation systems.

That seems reasonable to me, to allow the negative use, but charge for mitigating-eliminating the negative impacts on others.

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