The Coastal Post - January, 1997

Marin County Bars Urged To Go Smoke-Free in 1997

Though California's workplace smoking ban won't extend to bars until 1998, state legislators and Marin County health officials recommend that bars begin the transition in 1997.

"It's time to give bar employees the same protection from environmental tobacco smoke that all other California workers have enjoyed since 1995," said Dr. Tom Peters, Director of Marin County Health and Human Services., "They shouldn't have to hold their breath another year."

Environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) consists of secondhand smoke-smoke that is exhaled-and sidestream smoke, which is emitted from the tip of the burning cigarette or cigar. ETS is responsible for an estimated 53,000 deaths in the U.S. annually, as well as allergies and respiratory diseases.

"Published studies have indicated that the most heavily exposed workers in smoky taverns inhale the equivalent amount of carcinogens as people who smoke one to two packs of cigarettes a day," said Dr. Fred Schwartz, Marin County Health Officer.

"And ETS exposure of workers in bars, similar to that of restaurants where smoking was permitted, is about eight to twenty times higher than sharking a residence with a smoker."

Assembly Bill 3037, which extended the bar smoking ban until the final deadline of Jan. 1, 1998, states: "If practicable, the gaming club or bar or tavern shall establish a designated nonsmoking area. If feasible, no employee shall be required, in the performance of ordinary work responsibilities, to enter any area in which smoking is permitted."

"It is up to each bar owner to adapt these requirements to his or her establishment," Dr. Peters said. "The requirements are specifically designed to help make it easier to go 100 percent smoke-free by 1998."

Eighty-five percent of California adults do not smoke, and half of all remaining smokers are trying to quit and are in favor of smoke-free environments, according to recent surveys by the California Department of Health Services. The number of adult smokers in Marin County is even lower-around 12 percent of the population.

The County of Marin and its 11 cities, with the exception of Corte Madera, have tougher smoke-free ordinances than the statewide law. Smoking is prohibited in all indoor workplaces and restaurants, but is permitted in restaurant bars (cocktail lounges) only if they are fully enclosed and separately ventilated. The cocktail lounge cannot be the waiting area for the dining room, must have a separate entrance, food is only incidental to the serving of liquor, and minors are not allowed unless they are passing through.

Dr. Peters said there have been several misconceptions about the ordinances.

"Private clubs aren't exempt because they are places of employment," he said. And dining rooms may not permit smoking even after meal service is over. That includes cigar dinners. All workplaces, including restaurants and office buildings, must be smoke-free 24 hours a day."

Private groups, such as 12-step groups, must also comply with the law-even after business hours-if they meet in places where the public has access or in places of employment.

The Marin County Tobacco Education Program provides free "no smoking" decals and indoor signs to the public. The decals are required by state and local laws to be posted at entryways at eye level for every place of employment except bars and retail tobacco stores. For signs, decals or brochures with more information about Marin County's ordinances, call 899-8623.

Law Change Makes It Illegal For Teens To Possess Tobacco

Effective Jan.1, 1997, it will be illegal for California minors to possess tobacco. Previously, it was illegal for a minor only to purchase or receive tobacco. Under the amended law, every person under 18 who purchases, receives or possesses any tobacco product or any such paraphernalia shall be punished upon conviction by a $75 fine or 20 hours of community service work.

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