City Council Shows Approval For Measure Against Smoking

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Berkeley smokers may soon be confined to street corners during their cigarette breaks thanks to a new regulation approved by the Berkeley City Council.

The City Council moved one step closer Tuesday toward implementing a measure that would ban smoking within 20 feet of entrances, exits and air intake vents of public buildings.

Council members unanimously approved the measure's first reading, sending the bill to the final reading, which will take place at next week's City Council meeting.

Since many sidewalks in Berkeley are less than 20 feet in width, the resolution may force smokers to street corners, said Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

"People will go to corners or intersections instead of smoking outside doorways," Worthington said.

Passersby, however, may still smoke near buildings "on the way to another destination," the law states.

Last February, a similar ruling was implemented for the UC Berkeley campus that banned smoking within 15 feet of all campus buildings.

The City Council, along with anti-smoking organizations such as the Berkeley Tobacco Prevention Coalition, said they hope the law will protect people with respiratory illnesses and others who are affected by the second-hand smoke near public doorways.

Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean said the vote is an important accomplishment for the city.

"I'm very proud that Berkeley has moved along this path," Dean said. "It is going to create a healthier situation for nonsmokers."

Among its many provisions, the bill requires local owners and property managers to post signs on building entrances and exits stating that smoking is prohibited within 20 feet of the doorway.

City officials said they plan to provide businesses with these signs, and said owners and property managers will be asked to relocate ashtrays at least 20 feet from doorways.

The law states regulation will be "self-enforced" by smokers and other citizens who can ask a smoker to move if they are within the non-smoking area.

"(The city) can't afford people to check every street," Worthington said. "What usually happens is because of peer pressure most people won't do it."

Members of the Tobacco Prevention Program said they feel the ordinance is a major boost to public health in Berkeley.

"The measure will definitely call to attention how big a problem second-hand smoke is," said Katherine Brown, a health worker for the City of Berkeley Tobacco Prevention Program."We really want to emphasize the health concerns smoking can have," she continued. "That's what we're really hoping to get out of the policy.

Opponents of the bill, however, said their rights as citizens and tax-payers would be violated if the measure is implemented.

"It's ridiculous and persecutes the smoker who pays more taxes than the average person," said Ray Domkus, president of Forces California, an organization that advocates smokers' rights.

Andy Ludlow, who is the group's international president, said the City Council's decision had political motives beyond stifling second-hand smoke.

"Does Berkeley still claim to be liberal?" he said. "It's a great politically correct way for them to target the homeless."


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