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San Fran Seeks Smoking Ban—But Not for Pot

A new bill would ban tobacco, but not medical marijuana, from public events on city-owned property.

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By Chrisanne Grise

07/23/12

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San Francisco is aiming to crack down on smoking in public. A new bill would ban tobacco at all outdoor events like street fairs and concerts on city property—but medical marijuana would still be allowed. "This is another step forward to protect the public's health from the dangers of second-hand smoke," says supervisor Eric Mar, who proposed the bill. He adds that 73,000 non-smokers die every year from second-hand smoke. "It's a critical public health danger with no safe level of exposure." However, he feels the rule shouldn't apply to medical marijuana smokers. "My hope is that people wouldn't light up at community festivals," Mar explains, "but if it's something medical and prescribed by a doctor, that should be permitted." That wouldn’t mean toking anywhere is allowed, though; in San Francisco, smoking marijuana is already banned in public parks. If passed, the bill would require event organizers to post signs and enforce the smoke-free rule, as additional law enforcement resources aren't provided for. 

Naturally, plenty of smokers are displeased about the prospect of yet another tobacco ban, and some challenge the accuracy of the science that the bill is based on. "Most people simply don't live long enough to die from secondhand smoke exposure," declares an article on PolicyMic.com. But many San Franciscans seem to support the proposal. "As the community norms are changing, people are expecting that all these things are non-smoking, so they become incensed when they find out there is no law to protect them," Serena Chen, a director of policy for the American Lung Association in California, tells The Fix. As you'd expect, many anti-smoking advocates welcome the proposed ban as a step in the right direction, but regret that it would exclude medical marijuana. Under California's Prop 65, you have to post a warning to alert people if they're being exposed to certain carcinogens. "I think that every city and its collected officials need to decide what their community wants or doesn't want," says Chen. "All I can say is what the facts are. The facts are that the state of California has listed marijuana smoke as a Prop 65 carcinogen." Still, advocates of the bill hope it will benefit the whole community and make events inclusive for everyone, whether they smoke or not. "Everybody has a right to breathe healthy, clean air," says Chen. "And no one has a right to pollute anybody else's air."

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