Monday, September 24, 2007

Belmont tries again to ban smoking in private homes

Belmont, CA -- It's not law yet, but the city of "Backwards Belmont" in California wants to ban smoking in privately owned condos and apartments. Even if you paid half a million dollars for your own condo, the city government can tell you you are not allowed to engage in a legal activity - smoking - in your own home! Of course it's just some dumb b!tch, Mayor Coralin Feierbach, who simply doesn't like the smell of smoke and wants to play Hitler in her little city and tell people where and when they can smoke.

The story from San Jose Mercury News:

The long-smoldering battle over Belmont's proposed anti-smoking ordinance could flare up one more time before it goes on the books.

After voting 3-2 to approve the ordinance Sept. 11, the Belmont City Council was scheduled to finalize it without further discussion at its meeting Tuesday.

But because of some changes city staff made to the ordinance following its initial approval, another public hearing is needed.

The most significant of those changes is a 14-month grace period for smokers living in apartments and condominiums. There also have been a few tweaks to the "reasonable distance" clause that requires smokers to stand 20 feet from any entrance to a non-smoking facility.

The ordinance makes it illegal to smoke in indoor and outdoor workplaces, public spaces such as parks and sports fields, and, most controversially, inside condominiums, townhouses and apartments.

Mayor Coralin Feierbach, who helped push the ordinance, said she hopes Tuesday's discussion will be brief.

"There's just a few things that need to be corrected," she said.

However, Councilman Warren Lieberman, who first voted against the ordinance Sept. 11, hopes to air misgivings one more time.

"My concern primarily is that we take too hard-line an approach to prohibiting smoking in apartments," Lieberman said. "The fact that if you smoke in your apartment you could be evicted - the penalties are just too excessive."

Feierbach, who sees banning smoking in apartments as a key to protecting residents from secondhand smoke, said she won't be swayed by Lieberman's objections.
"My vote stands as is," Feierbach said.

The Belmont City Council is scheduled to meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Belmont City Hall, One Twin Pines Lane.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Group Says Colorado Smoking Ban Having Negative Economic Consequences

The Colorado Coalition for Equal Rights on Monday denounced the state's ban on smoking in public places, saying that data from the state's hurting tavern and bar industry gives the lie to the efficacy of the measure.
Colorado became the 13th state in the U.S. to ban smoking in public buildings in the spring of 2006.

According to the non-profit Coalition, OSHA (the federal occupational safety and health administration) typically considers a regulatory action to be economically unfeasible if said action would cause a decrease in related industry or sector revenue of at least one percent or cause a decline in profits in excess of ten percent. Furthermore, says the Coalition, OSHA typically considers a regulatory action economically unfeasible if the action would cause a change in the competitive structure of an industry.

"The Colorado smoking ban violates all three OSHA economic feasibility criteria. As of the first quarter 2007 the Colorado smoking ban has imposed at least $16.8 million in economic damages on bars and taverns in the state, 6.4 percent of previous revenues, and many of our members are experiencing profit declines in the range of fifteen to forty percent," said Allen Campbell, Senior Vice President of the Coalition.

The Colorado law met with very mixed reviews, including a lot of hostile ones, when it was first enacted, especially in light of the fact that if you work from home, your home office is considered a "public building" and if you're a smoker you are thus restricted in what you can do in a certain part of your own home.

Many non-smokers who enjoy going out to restaurants unsurprisingly praised the measure, saying the ban made their outings more enjoyable. Here and there, one could even find a bartender who would praise the measure as well, citing that they didn't have to go home every night after work smelling like smoke (needless to say, these bartenders were all non-smokers).

However, the ban has had an abundance of critics both professional and public. Many bar and tavern owners, and even some restaurateurs, have been saying that their business has suffered because their patrons who are smokers feel their civil rights have been violated and they will just go home and enjoy not only their smoking, but also their imbibing and eating there, too.

Smokers have consistently said that they can understand a high-end restaurant choosing to ban smoking on its premises, but that it's traditional for smoking to take place in places like taverns and that it should be the non-smokers, not themselves, who should have to make the choice to take their business elsewhere if they don't like a smoky room.

OSHA has stated that it's highly unusual for tobacco smoke constituents to exceed its Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) in the normal work environment, even in places such as taverns.

"OSHA regulations provide a safe harbor for business owners because compliance with OSHA Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) protects them from unwarranted regulatory intrusion. Are Colorado bar and tavern small business owners deprived of equal protection of law through substitution of a special-interest smoking ban agenda for established federally regulatory policy?" asks CER consultant Norman E. Kjono.