Pubdate: Mon, Feb 1, 1999
Source: San Luis Obispo County Telegram-Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 1999 San Luis Obispo County Telegram-Tribune
Contact:  Anne M. Peterson, Associated Press


SAN FRANCISCO - Inside the Gold Coast, patrons who belly up to the
mahogany bar and throw down a pack of cigarettes are handed a flyer
warning that police can slap smokers with costly tickets.

A no-smoking sign is prominently displayed at eye level among rows of
liquor bottles.

Yet the customers still grab for heavy glass ashtrays and light up,
filling the downtown bar with a light gray haze by the end of the workday.

"It's ludicrous," Gold Coast customer Lee Marie Parmelee said, "I
don't come into a bar for my health."

Since California's smoking ban expanded to taverns a little more than
a year ago, enforcement has varied across the state. Many bar owners
complain that customers will go elsewhere if they can't smoke. Health
officials counter that smoking and secondhand smoke are deadly - and
therefore a workplace safety issue.

Although most bars attached to restaurants comply with the law, only
about 68 percent of stand-alone bars enforce it, according to
statistics provided by BREATH, a project of the American Lung
Association. The group is encouraging police, health departments, and
bars and resaurants to enforce the ban.

In San Francisco, only 49 percent of stand-alone bars were com-plying
with the ban, according to a recent survey, which prompted the Health
Department and Police Chief Fred Lau to take action.

In a Jan. 11 letter from Lau and Health Director Mitchell Katz, bar
and restaurant owners were informed smokers could be ticketed. In the
past, it was mostly bar owners who faced citations and fines.

"We recommend that you inform your patrons who are smoking at your
business that they will be subject to penalty," the letter said.

The cost is $77 per ticket.

"This is not going to be exactly as some people portray it, that
police are going to randomly go into bars and start issuing tickets,"
said Senior Environmental Health Inspector Tom Rivard. "We're
targeting places where we've had a large number of

Last April and May, about six tickets were passed out to smokers. The
Health Department had hoped a limited number of citations and a great
deal of education would bring about widespread compliance.

If the threat of ticketing smokers does not help bring about compli-
ance, there are other routes the city can take, Rivard said. One
possibility is a class-action lawsuit by nonsmoking bars charging
unfair business practice against saloons that look the other way.

Most bartenders and bar patrons were skeptical of the plan to issue
tickets to smokers. The overriding sentiment was that police have
better things to do.

"I haven't seen anything different," said Raymond Sasso, cofounder of
a group called Fight Ordinances & Restrictions to Control & Eliminate
Smoking. "I don't normally go to bars, but I don't think it's going to
make any difference. The police aren't going to waste their resources
on this."

In San Diego, the Sheriff's Department launched "Operation Clear the
Air" earlier this month, and a 45-member vice squad was put in charge
of busting smokers.

The city has been ticketing violators since the law took effect. San
Diego City Attorney Casey Gwin said 130 cases came through his office
in 1998, and most paid the fine, which can be up to $270.

BREATH Direcor Dian Kiser said smaller cities and towns are having the
most success with the ban. Truckee and Davis showed nearly complete
compliance with the law, but Davis had a strict smoking policy already
on the books. Sacramento's rate was at 70 percent.

"It works to the advantage of the police and other enforcement offi-
cers to actually know the people they're dealing with," she said.
"There have been communities where the sheriff's deputies have
actually gone to the bar owner's home to talk to them."

The problem spots seem to be big cities, where there are many bars and
resources for tracking down violators are stretched to the limit.

In Los Angeles, enforcement has been spotty at best. City Council-
woman Laura Chick, chairwoman of the public safety committee, wants to
change that.

"To me, without a doubt there's proof that secondhand smoke is
dangerous so there's a clear-cut public safety issue. But there's
another issue, and that's that I think the worst thing that govern-
ment can do is pass a law without enforcement," she said. "This is the
law in the state of California and we will enforce it."
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