Smokers got more bad news at a conference on tobacco use and its health dangers Wednesday: Some officials predict that it will not be long before smoking is prohibited in almost all public buildings and offices.
“I would not be surprised if by the turn of the century, it is impossible to smoke anywhere but in the privacy of your own home or in your car,” Irvine City Councilman Barry J. Hammond said. “I think there is a public awareness that passive smoke is not just an irritant and a bother but a health risk.”
Hammond was among officials from several county cities who took part in a seminar held by the Orange County Health Care Agency and the Tobacco Use and Prevention Program (TUPP). The effects of secondhand smoke and city roles in regulating smoking to protect nonsmokers were examined.
Stanton Glantz, a UC San Francisco professor of medicine and co-author of an Environmental Protection Agency report on the effects of smoke, told the seminar that passive smoke in the household kills about 5,000 people a year in California.
Just 18.9% of county residents are habitual smokers--the lowest county percentage in the state, according to TUPP statistics.
“If a smoker wants to poison their body, that is their business, but they should do so without endangering others,” Glantz said.
Glantz said the need for tough restrictions begins in the workplace.
“In the workplace people are closer together,” he said, so “the effects can be four times higher than in the household because people are there eight hours a day.”
County supervisors this summer barred smoking in county-owned and leased buildings, and most of the county’s 10 largest employers have adopted strict smoking policies, but most city ordinances in the county reflect the concern of restaurant and bar owners that a total ban would hurt business.
An Irvine ordinance requires that at least 50% of a restaurant’s seating be designated nonsmoking. A City Council bid for a total ban five years ago failed, Irvine City Manager Paul O. Brady Jr. said.
“A total ban will not come anytime soon,” Hammond said after the seminar. “Businesses have said to me, ‘I agree (to the need for a ban), but I am afraid.’ (A ban) has to come from businesses who realize the need. When they do, the rest of the community will say thank you.”
Countywide, only Buena Park, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, La Palma, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Villa Park and Buena Park have not adopted some form of smoking ordinance, TUPP said. Of the 22 cities that have ordinances, none totally bar smoking in public buildings and parks or workplaces.