Rockville can lead on smoke-free out­door din­ing

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS -

On Mon­day, the Rockville City Coun­cil will hold a pub­lic hear­ing on an or­di­nance to en­sure smoke-free air at all out­door din­ing ar­eas city­wide. This de­vel­op­ment builds on a re­mark­able se­ries of steps that state and lo­cal pol­i­cy­mak­ers in our area have taken over the past 15 years to re­duce res­i­dents’ ex­po­sure to the dan­gers of sec­ond­hand smoke:

· 2003: A Mont­gomery County or­di­nance en­sures smoke-free air in in­door ar­eas, in­clud­ing pub­lic of­fice build­ings, schools, health-care fa­cil­i­ties and restau­rants.

· 2007: Mary­land’s Clean In­door Air Act en­sures smoke-free air in vir­tu­ally all in­door work­places statewide, in­clud­ing restau­rants, to “pre­serve and im­prove the health, com­fort, and en­vi­ron­ment of the peo­ple of Mary­land by lim­it­ing ex­po­sure to en­vi­ron­men­tal to­bacco smoke.”

· 2011: A Mont­gomery County Board of Health reg­u­la­tion en­sures smoke-free air in com­mon in­door ar­eas of multi-unit res­i­den­tial dwellings and within 25 feet of out­door pri­vate play­ground ar­eas at such dwellings.

· 2015: A Rockville City Coun­cil vote en­sures smoke-free air at out­door ar­eas of more than 80 city-owned of­fice build­ings, parks, re­cre­ation cen­ters and other fa­cil­i­ties.

Rockville’s smoke-free out­door din­ing or­di­nance, drafted by City Coun­cil mem­ber Julie Palakovich Carr, would build on th­ese smoke-free poli­cies, which ben­e­fit our res­i­dents, fam­i­lies and busi­nesses ev­ery day, mak­ing Rockville a health­ier, safer and bet­ter place to live.

Should Rockville adopt this or­di­nance, it would join four states and 250 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties that have en­acted laws re­quir­ing 100 per­cent smoke-free out­door din­ing and bar pa­tio ar­eas.

But Rockville would not just be fol­low­ing; it also would be lead­ing. It would be­come only the sec­ond mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Mary­land — and the first in the D.C. area — to take this step.

There is over­whelm­ing sci­en­tific con­sen­sus that there is no safe level of ex­po­sure to sec­ond­hand smoke. But re­search shows that it is still quite preva­lent, even in places where smoke-free in­door laws have been en­acted. A study pub­lished last year in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Health Pro­mo­tion mea­sured sec­ond­hand smoke ex­po­sure among Min­nesota res­i­dents seven years after the state en­acted a smoke-free air law. Re­searchers found that 35 per­cent of non­smok­ers re­ported still be­ing ex­posed to sec­ond­hand smoke over the pre­ced­ing seven days. An out­door restau­rant seat­ing area or bar pa­tio was the third­most-fre­quently re­ported area of such ex­po­sure.

The health ben­e­fits to such a mea­sure, then, are clear. So, too, are the eco­nomic ben­e­fits. Per the Cam­paign for To­bacco-Free Kids, “nu­mer­ous care­ful sci­en­tific and eco­nomic anal­y­ses show that smoke­free laws do not hurt restau­rant and bar pa­tron­age, em­ploy­ment, sales, or prof­its.” The U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion’s Com­mu­nity Preven­tive Ser­vices Task Force has sim­i­larly con­cluded that “smoke-free poli­cies did not have an ad­verse eco­nomic im­pact on the busi­ness ac­tiv­ity of restau­rants, bars, or es­tab­lish­ments cater­ing to tourists; some stud­ies found a small pos­i­tive ef­fect of th­ese poli­cies.”

En­sur­ing smoke-free out­door din­ing ar­eas makes sense. That’s why food re­tail es­tab­lish­ments in our city, in­clud­ing Daw­son’s Mar­ket and World of Beer, al­ready do it. That’s why lead­ing na­tional health or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Amer­i­can Cancer So­ci­ety Cancer Ac­tion Net­work, the Cam­paign for To­bacco-Free Kids, the March of Dimes, Mary­land Group Against Smoker’s Pol­lu­tion and Amer­i­cans for Non­smok­ers’ Rights, have en­dorsed the ef­fort. And that’s why the City Coun­cil should pass it and other mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in the metropoli­tan area should fol­low suit.

When it comes to smoke-free out­door din­ing ar­eas, sci­ence, eco­nom­ics and health are all firmly on our side. Ev­ery­body wins. I look for­ward to the day in the very near fu­ture when this pol­icy be­comes a part of what makes Rockville a great place for fam­i­lies to thrive.

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