The city council in Concord, California is considering an ordinance which would effectively ban smoking in the entire downtown area. The proposed ban would effectively prohibit smoking not only adjacent to building entrances, but on any sidewalks and streets in the downtown area.
The impetus for the proposed ban is that downtown businesses were upset that smokers were congregating outside of their stores: "Last year, downtown property owners asked the City Council to ban smoking in the area around Todos Santos, too, saying that smokers who had been pushed out of the park were congregating around their buildings. ... On the downtown ban, the city's staff had proposed banning smoking within 20 feet of doorways, as other cities have done. But the property owners who spoke to the subcommittee asked them to totally outlaw smoking for the blocks around the park, so as not to have pockets of smokers."
The Rest of the Story
The problem with these broad outdoor smoking bans is that they go beyond the issue of health protection. They go beyond the need to protect nonsmokers from significant exposure to secondhand smoke and instead, what they are protecting the public against is having to see smokers.
The business owners did not express concern about the health effects of secondhand smoke, but instead, their concern was that they didn't like the idea of having groups of smokers seen in the vicinity of their stores.
Once again, this demonstrates how the public health practice of tobacco control has shifted from a battle against cigarette smoke to a battle against cigarette smokers.
Public health advocates should remember that outdoors is exactly where we want smokers to be smoking. That is actually the way to minimize exposure of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke. Eventually, what these policies are going to do is make it impossible for smokers to smoke anywhere except in their own homes. And that would be detrimental to the public's health because it would expose their families - and their children - to the tobacco smoke.
Is it tobacco smoke exposure that we are fighting or is it the smoker?