Ashland council members began work on a new city ordinance, banning the smoking of cigarettes in public. Oregon already has a strong statewide law in place prohibiting smoking in indoor public places such as restaurants and bars, and within 10 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes of businesses or public buildings.
“What I proposed was a draft of an ordinance to ban smoking in areas where most people would be impacted by second hand smoke,” stated city council member Stefani Seffinger. Her draft suggested that downtown and other areas in the city including public buildings, outdoor plazas, and eating areas would all be designated as smoke-free. After the draft is completed the public will be able to view and comment on it, followed by a study session and council meeting. “It is a process that does take some time,” said Seffinger. “I expect this would not end up on the agenda for several months at least.”
Ashland has long been one of 1,155 cities and counties with smoke-free park laws and will not be the first to implement a city-wide smoking ban. In fact it seems to be a national trend. In May of 2011 New York City was one of the first to establish a city-wide ban on cigarette smoking in public places including all of it’s 1700 parks, 14 miles of beaches, and public plazas like Times Square. New Orleans just recently established a smoking ban, which went into effect in April making it illegal to smoke on patios outside restaurants and bars, but still acceptable in parks and sidewalks. The New Orleans law requires the owner or manager of restaurants to order patrons to stop smoking. Any business caught allowing smoking could risk losing permits or licenses needed for their operation. The ordinance for Ashland is currently being drafted and there are still issues to confront before it can be voted on.
When asked about the proposed ban some residents weren’t exactly enthusiastic about it. “Good luck” said Jen Williams, an employee at a consignment shop in downtown Ashland. “There’s way too many bars downtown for that to happen. It’s such a big part of their business, it’s just not practical.” A study done by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which surveyed 115,000 working adults between 2004 and 2010, estimated that about 30 percent of food service workers smoke cigarettes. This means that in addition to customers smoking in designated areas on decks and patios, many employees are also contributing to the second hand smoke that Ashland council members seek to eradicate.
According to the American Lung Association, secondhand smoke is the cause of up to 50,000 deaths per year as well as other side effects including lung cancer, respiratory infections and asthma. Since 1964, approximately 2,500,000 nonsmokers have died from health problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke. However, second hand smoke is not always created equally or impacts equally. The California Air Resources Board did a comprehensive study of outdoor secondhand smoke in 2006 and determined that the effects in outdoor environments vary widely based on factors such as wind, distance from the smoker and concentration of smokers. They determined outdoor, secondhand smoke can be harmful if a person is standing within two feet of a smoker, if there is a larger concentration of smokers in the area and if the person is downwind of the smoker and if the smokers are contained on a patio or fenced area where the smoke is not in a wide open area and cannot dissipate as quickly.
There were some speculations, however, that the law was targeting the homeless who have been known to linger around downtown smoking in open. Some claim they may be additionally littering the plaza with burnt cigarette butts. “We’re not the only ones that are smoking, everyone is,” stated “Amen”, a man currently residing in Ashland. “If you legalize something you can’t discriminate against it. We’re all citizens here.” Amen and a few others present admitted they had already received multiple tickets for smoking marijuana in public. He claims a law banning outdoor smoking is unlikely to deter them.