Secondhand smoke study buoys city efforts

Tying in to Belmont’s efforts to limit smoking within city limits, a new study from Stanford University suggests that secondhand smoke — even outdoors — is more dangerous than previously thought.

The study by Stanford researchers Wayne Ott, Neil Klepeis and Paul Switzer measured the amount of floating particles given off by a burning cigarette at distances from 18 inches to beyond 6 feet.

And although city leaders have backed away from banning smoking in Belmont, Mayor Coralin Feierbach said the study backs up their belief that stiffer restrictions are needed.

By turning secondhand smoke into a public nuisance like loud noise, Feierbach and the council hope to give Belmont police the tools to protect residents from wafting carcinogens. The council is still trying to determine the scope of the ordinance, from an all-out ban on smokingto simple restrictions in highly populated areas. According to Ott, the study — using particle sensors set up around burning cigarettes — showed that being within 6 feet of a single smoker outdoors can expose someone to similar or higher levels of smoke than being in an enclosed space, depending on distance.

The findings in the study were compared to measurements taken in Menlo Park’s Oasis Tavern in 1997. “The amazing thing to me is that just two cigarettes from one smoker less than a half a meter away is greater than the effect of all the smoke inside the tavern for an hour before they banned smoking,” Ott said. “Pound for pound, cigarettes are so tiny that the amount of pollution they create is astounding.”

Feierbach said the results of the study enforce her belief that the council is doing the right thing in pursuing a stronger smoking ordinance. “It just crystallizes that we’re doing the right thing,” she said. “People have said ‘has anyone proven that secondhand smoke is a problem,’ and this answers that.”

One of the people who have questioned the dangers of outdoor secondhand smoke is Robert Best of the International Smokers’ Rights Group, who said “there is no scientific evidence that proves that secondhand smoke in an outdoor environment exists,” in March.

Best told The Examiner that many studies are biased, and even if secondhand smoke is proven to be a problem in outdoor areas, he said that cigarette smoke is not the only potential carcinogen in the atmosphere.

Feierbach said the ordinance should be coming up for discussion at the June 12 council meeting.

jgoldman@examiner.com

Bay Area NewsLocal

Just Posted

Cabernet sauvignon grapes sat in a container after being crushed at Smith-Madrone Winery in St. Helena. (Courtesy Smith-Madrone Winery)
San Francisco’s ‘Champagne problems’ — Wine industry suffers supply chain woes

‘Everywhere you turn, things that were easy are no longer easy’

Glasses behind the bar at LUNA in the Mission District on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Glassware is just one of the many things restaurants have had trouble keeping in stock as supply chain problems ripple outward. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF restaurants face product shortages and skyrocketing costs

‘The supply chain crisis has impacted us in almost every way imaginable’

A Giants fans hangs his head in disbelief after the Dodgers won the NLDS in a controversial finish to a tight Game 5. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Giants dream season ends at the hands of the Dodgers, 2-1

A masterful game comes down to the bottom of the ninth, and San Francisco came up short

<strong>Workers with Urban Alchemy and the Downtown Streets Team clean at Seventh and Market streets on Oct. 12. <ins>(Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins> </strong>
<ins></ins>
Why is it so hard to keep San Francisco’s streets clean?

Some blame bureaucracy, others say it’s the residents’ fault

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi — seen in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday — touted Congressional Democrats’ infrastructure bill in San Francisco on Thursday. (Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times)
Pelosi touts infrastructure bill as it nears finish line

Climate change, social safety net among major priorities of Democrats’ 10-year funding measure

Most Read