Smokers told to step back
December 19, 2003
California changes law to keep smoke from doorways
By Gregory Crofton
Tribune staff writer
California was the first state to eliminate smoking inside public buildings. Now it’s getting tougher on those who smoke outside those buildings.
Starting Jan. 1, smokers must be at least 20 feet from the doorway or window of public buildings. The policy change is meant to reduce health risks associated with secondhand smoke.
On average secondhand smoke causes 3,000 lung cancer deaths and 35,000 heart disease deaths in nonsmokers each year, according to the American Lung Association.
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The law, which will affect all public facilities including colleges, will not change the policy at Lake Tahoe Community College because it already requires smokers to stay 50 feet from doors and windows, said Bridgete Motas, a health education coordinator for El Dorado County.
But buildings such as the South Lake Tahoe Police Department will have to make sure smoke doesn’t billow into their lobby.
“We’re not intending to do anything special, we’ll post the sign of course,” Sgt. Brian Williams said. “It’s already a nonsmoking building.”
Benches in a courtyard outside the department are well-used by smokers and they are more than 20 feet from the entrance of the police department, Williams said.
The city manager of South Lake Tahoe, a former smoker, said he supports the change in law, but doesn’t think there are too many smokers who work for the city who will be affected by it.
“The general trend is that people don’t smoke, and those that do have quit,” Dave Jinkens said. “I’m always glad when there are ways to hopefully encourage people to be healthier. But I don’t discriminate against those who smoke.”
Nevada is a different world when it comes to smoking. Local governments are not allowed to create smoking ordinances.
Only the Legislature has the power to do that, and it has chosen to leave smoking regulations up to each building or business.
“It’s all voluntary,” said Charlene Herst, director of the state’s Tobacco Prevention and Education Program. “It’s up to whatever workplace to set those guidelines.”
Herst, a former smoker, said she supports California’s law.
“We don’t need to be exposed to secondhand smoke anywhere near doorways,” she said. “Children and babies come in and their lungs don’t need to be exposed to what your lungs are.”
Nevada has a tobacco-user help line. It can be reached at 888-866-6642.
In California, signs which explain the smoking regulation will be available from the El Dorado County Public Health Department Health Education Coordinator Kirsten Rogers at (530) 621-6143.
El Dorado County is offering a smoking cessation clinic beginning Feb. 11 at Barton Memorial Hospital. Eight sessions cost $35. For more information, call (530) 573-3191.