by Monika Barta
Smoking has been a controversial issue since the discovery of its consequences on health. This wrecked the romanticised and elegant picture portrayed by screenwriters and businessman earning profit from the tobacco industry.
Even though science has long proven the negative effects of cigarettes, smoking remains a common habit. This fact provokes controversy and raises disagreement among those who enjoy their daily nicotine dose and those who are unwillingly exposed to the contagious smoke. "Free will of choice" is a comment often cited in discussions regarding the issue. The problem, however, is that both smokers and nonsmokers are aiming for the same right to choose freely.
Smokers should hold the right to satisfy their personal needs. Yet, health-related risks of non-smokers should not be forcibly increased by second-hand smoke which is as or even more harmful than first-hand smoke. Compromise seems to be the only possible solution for this controversial issue. Different countries, states and cities have adjusted their smoke regulation laws along the lines of the occurring lifestyle patterns and majority opinions spread within a specific region. However, the smoking policy adopted by the City of San Rafael is rather revolutionary.
The San Rafael Smoking Ban, also referred to as the strictest in the nation, took place in 2013. This law interfered with nicotine addiction by short cutting legal smoking areas; meaning that the silver-headed Joe reading the morning newspaper while enjoying a cup of coffee and a cigar at the outside section of Crepevine is violating the law. Joe, of course, is not happy about this. Not only he is not allowed to maintain his morning routine of twenty years, he would also get fined if caught.
However, according to Rebecca Woodbury, an analyst at the San Rafael City Manager's office, people like Joe fall into the frame of San Rafael's minority, "Most of the members of the public who attended the City Council meetings on the topic spoke in favor and we have received many notes from people in the community that they are appreciative of the law." Woodbury, who crafted the ordinance, cited reducing the public’s exposure to secondhand smoke, reducing the risk of smoking-related fires and reducing cigarette-related litter as the main criteria initiating the ban.
Considering the quiet community of San Rafael, it is no surprise that most families do not oppose the ban. Dining areas, open space and recreation areas, such as parks, public events and even 80 percent of all hotel rooms have been smoke-free since 2013. Cigarette smoke is no longer bothering San Rafael residents in their homes for, due to the second-hand smoke risk, the ban debars smoking in apartments and the designated smoking areas must be, as Woodbury said, “Located at least 20 feet from any unit or enclosed area where smoking is prohibited.”
Families that used to feel powerless over preventing the health-risks faced by their small children are now at ease. Viewing from the non-smoker’s perspective the ban appears to be beneficial for it provides the access to freedom of choice.
However, smokers, especially those who have developed high levels of addiction, are not happy about the disturbance of their routines. “I can’t enjoy my cigarette in my own private space, which I’m paying for. It’s simply unfair,” said a Dominican student renting an apartment in Fairfax. Another student living off campus added more character to his comment, by saying “Well can I sneeze in public? It can be bad for somebodies health, too. Am I allowed to sneeze in my apartment? How about farting in public - it smells just as bad as cigarette smoke, if not worse…”
Many smoking students residing on campus, have not been negatively affected by the smoking ban; many of them were not even aware of its existence. Luckily in this case unawareness of the law does not seem to result in its violation because the smoking policy at Dominican has been vastly adopted by the smoker student population. The designated smoking spot located on campus, in front of Pennafort and Fanjeaux satisfies both, smoking and on-smoking students, for it does not overcome the size restrictions listed in the smoking ban order and is also located in right proximity from the nearest buildings.
Being familiar with the smoking ban could not be harmful for those who are for and against smoking. More information on this ordinance can be found by clicking on the links listed below: http://cityofsanrafael.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?meta_id=25549&view=&showpdf=1 ; http://www.cityofsanrafael.org/smokefree
It may also be interesting to check out http://www.smokefreemarin.com/.