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.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cigarette smoking and the public space

While I wrote about policy and legislative efforts concerning smoking in public in October the discussion continues.  (Not to mention the terrible and disgusting practice of discarding cigarette butts in the public space.  Tracking such litter is one of the items on the litter survey forms--pp. 163-166--used by Keep Australia Beautiful.)

In the DC region, Montgomery County has proposed restrictions on smoking on Montgomery County-owned property, including public housing (article, "Floreen bill would expand smoking ban in Montgomery," anti-editorial, "Kicking Montgomery's smokers to the curb," response,"Smoking ban would protect public health" from the Gazette) and in Fairfax County, one of the County Supervisors wants to reduce the prevalence of smoking on the part of government employees, as a public health and health cost measure ("Fairfax supervisors want workers to kick the habit" from WTOP radio").

Of course, Mayor Bloomberg in New York City has made anti-smoking policies a key element of his health policies, including a ban on smoking in public parks, although I am always shocked when I visit Manhattan to see (AND SMELL) so many people smoking in public.

I thought Baltimore was bad (much worse than DC--I used to joke that the only reason people walked outside was to smoke, but this has changed significantly over the past 5 years) but probably Manhattan is worse.

In San Francisco, there is a new proposal to restrict smoking in public places during scheduled special events ("S.F. smokers may face another limit" from the San Francisco Chronicle). From the article:

It's already illegal to smoke in most places in San Francisco - city parks, restaurants, common areas of buildings, within 15 feet of business doorways - practically anywhere but homes, portions of the sidewalk and the middle of the street.  Soon, it may be illegal in the street as well, at least during official events.

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.

And some places have restrictions on smoking in public parks or around transit shelters, the kinds of restrictions I wish we had in DC--I hate standing at a bus shelter when someone is smoking, and I really hate people walking on the Metropolitan Branch Trail and smoking, and I have to smell it.

That we are having these kinds of discussions is pretty amazing, because it was only 5 to 10 years ago that communities were considering--yes and no--bans on smoking in restaurants and other places. Now such bans are commonplace, and in fact when you travel, it's often a shock to go somewhere and find that smoking in a restaurant or bar is legal.

The reason that I don't believe in accommodating smoking is that it has deleterious impacts on other people ("secondhand smoke") in terms of negative health impact, plus IT SMELLS! And both those effects are real and it isn't "fair" for some people to subject others to those smells.

The smoking in multiunit buildings issue takes this to another level. I know that it is an issue. E.g., I remember living on the ground floor of a rowhouse and the ventilation system was connected to the second floor, which was a separate apartment, and when there were smokers living there, their air commingled with mine and I hated it.

And many residential properties already have restrictions or policies in place ("Smoking restrictions gain ground" from the San Francisco Chronicle).

So it is encouraging that it is starting to be discussed in more places ("Bloomberg Calls for Residential Smoking Rules" from the New York Times; "Bloomberg: No plan for a residential smoking ban" from the Wall Street Journal; "More Cities Ban Smoking In Apartment Buildings," WBUR radio). Although I have no problem with creating "segregated" living quarters for smokers, separate from buildings for nonsmokers.

I certainly hate when this happens in hotels and motels, even when there are separate areas for smokers and nonsmokers.

I would hate living in an apartment and having to mix with smoking tenants.

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At 12:37 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

This is the classic externality issue again.

(not in the confused "capturing all the cost" issue, but the case where i engage in a objectional activity that somehow damges the proprety rights around me. Captuing those costs is near impossible.

(And much like many of the "war on cars" rule or mandating bike helmets, the goal of regulation isn't to regulate the transactions cost but elimate the activity)

That being said, some people are more senstiive to the smell than others, and it makes valuing the damge very difficult. Also driving smokers outdoors isn't always good for the outdoor street enviorment, although it does put more feet on the ground.

At 12:49 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

i guess to your point about some people being more sensitive and others less, to some people, the taste of cilantro is more like soap, rather than the nirvanaish flavor I experience.

But yep, a lot of times I don't want to sit at a restaurant patio, because other tables will have smoking patrons.

At 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tobacco is a huge health issue.

Smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco are not "habits," they are powerful, deadly addictions. Many of us are allergic to the elements in sidestream smoke and can have life-threatening reactions to it.

My mother, who had smoked since she was a teenager, tried to quit many times over the years but couldn't get past one day without her nicotine fix. While visiting me in DC after I had moved here to work, she died in June 1980 at age 67 in the ER at GWU, not of lung cancer but of a coronary heart attack. The doctor informed me that her vessels and arteries were so constricted by 50+ years of smoking that, had she lived, she would have been a vegetable for the rest of her life.

Her husband, who was not a smoker, had heart problems for many years and had died of a coronary nine years earlier at age 62. My brother, who took up smoking later in life, has three adult children who had childhood respiratory problems--the two younger kids still do.

Just one of the reasons I was thoroughly opposed to Mitt Romney becoming POTUS.



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