Sacramento councilman working on patio smoking ban

bmullin@sacbee.comJune 15, 2013 

6M15SMOKING

Donavon Stauff, 34, takes a picture of his cigar to share on Instagram outside R15 Bar in midtown. City Councilman Steve Hansen is working on an ordinance that would ban smoking on patios.

JOSÉ LUIS VILLEGAS — jvillegas@sacbee.com

Banished long ago from the inside of bars and restaurants, smokers also could lose the ability to light up on patios at many restaurants and bars in Sacramento.

Steve Hansen, a council member who represents Sacramento's downtown and midtown neighborhoods, is working with the American Cancer Society to come up with an ordinance that would ban smoking on patios that extend into public space.

The ordinance, first mentioned at Tuesday's City Council meeting, aims to protect nonsmokers from harmful secondhand smoke while they're dining, Hansen said.

"When you're sitting down to have a nice meal and someone's smoking next to you, the smoke doesn't stay at their table," Hansen said. "It goes to everyone's table."

The ordinance probably won't be ready for the city to consider until sometime during the fall, Hansen said, adding that it could be the jumping-off point for a broader conversation about where smoking should be banned in Sacramento.

The city currently has laws that ban smoking in public parks in addition to enclosed workplaces and city-managed buildings. State law specifically prevents smoking in bars.

Hansen said he's been approached by people who are in favor of a ban on patio smoking since he brought it up for discussion.

But not everyone agrees that the patios of Sacramento's restaurants and bars should be smoke-free. Gail Dick, who owns and operates the Back Door Lounge, a bar without a patio in Old Sacramento, said the ban could drive smokers away from bars and hurt local businesses. The smokers would probably return to bars and outdoor cafes eventually, but it might take a toll in the meantime, she said.

"I know it's not healthy, but it's a struggle to make a business like this even work anymore," Dick said.

It's too early to tell how the ban would affect local businesses, said Jason Boggs, co-owner of the Shady Lady Saloon, an R Street bar and restaurant with a patio that extends into public space. Rather than a new law, Boggs prefers to have bars and restaurants work with their customers to encourage courteous smoking.

"I would much rather see a self-policing society that understands you don't blow smoke in somebody's face if they're eating," he said.

There are 69 cities throughout California, including Oakland, San Jose and Berkeley, that have banned smoking on restaurant patios, and there's no evidence that their businesses faced negative economic consequences as a result of the ban, said Tim Gibbs, the director of campaign initiatives for the Cancer Action Network.

The city of Davis passed such an ordinance in 1993, and at least one of the establishments that complained the new law would destroy its business has survived, said Barbara King, who promoted the ban.

"Look at the bar and restaurant scene in Davis," King said. "It didn't kill it here."

A March 2013 health report from the Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin named Yolo County the fifth healthiest county in California, in part because of Davis' strict stance against public smoking, said county spokeswoman Beth Gabor.

"The research shows there's a direct connection between low smoking rates and the convenience of smoking," she said.

Even though there are people who like to smoke at bars and restaurants, they're in the minority, Gibbs said.

About 76 percent of Californians agree that outdoor dining areas should be smoke-free, according to a 2008 survey conducted by the California Department of Public Health. In addition, 76 percent of smokers surveyed agreed that secondhand smoke can cause lung cancer.

Call The Bee's Ben Mullin, (916) 321-1034.

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