Smokefree DC is a citizen-based group whose goal is to promote smokefree environments in Washington, DC.

Media misrepresents sidewalk provision as “crackdown”

Have you seen the stories about the city “cracking down” on sidewalk smoking? Don’t worry – the city is doing no such thing. That’s just alarmist rhetoric from the media, which is trying to find a story where there isn’t one.

Here’s the real scoop:

The D.C. Council is considering allowing businesses to voluntarily post “no smoking” signs outside their buildings. Why? Because in some places, smoke is drifting back inside the work spaces. That, of course, undermines the point of the very good smokefree workplaces law the Council passed in 2006, which is designed to protect workers and the public from the many health hazards of secondhand smoke.

The sidewalk provision is just a few lines in a much larger bill that would make it harder for teens to get their hands on tobacco products. There is no enforcement – no fines, no penalties, nothing like that. It merely clarifies that building owners can ask people not to smoke when they are standing outside the building.

Smokefree DC’s Bob Summersgill testified on Tuesday, Sept. 29, before the

Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary. His testimony is below.

View Bill B18-0428 (PDF). Look at Section 9.

If you think this is a good idea, please contact the Council. Phone numbers and email addresses are at If you want to email the whole Council at once, just send to

Questions for us? Call Angela Bradbery, Smokefree DC’s co-founder, at 202-669-6517.

Testimony by Bob Summersgill on Behalf of Smokefree DC on

Bill 18-124, Single Sale of Cigar Product Prohibition Amendment Act of 2009 and Bill 18-428, Prohibition Against Selling Tobacco Product to Minors Amendment Act of 2009

Good morning Chairman Mendelson.

My name is Bob Summersgill; I am a resident of Ward 3 and a member of Smokefree DC’s Steering Committee. Smokefree DC fully supports both bill 18-0124 and bill 18-0428.

Both bills would curb smoking by youth by prohibiting single sales of cigars and by making it more difficult for minors to buy tobacco products. Additionally, bill 18-0428 would enable building owners to post “no smoking” signs outside their buildings to ensure that secondhand smoke doesn’t drift inside.

While bill 18-0124, which would prohibit the sale of single cigars, is designed to limit drug paraphernalia, it also would dissuade kids from purchasing cigars, because they would have to buy many at once, effectively putting them out of their price range.

Teens are turning to cigars with increasing frequency; in the District, 10.1 percent of high school students smoke cigars, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Not only are little cigars more attractive to teens than cigarettes because they are not subject to cigarette taxes and so are cheaper, but they also come in flavors designed to appeal to youth.

The city of Baltimore has recognized this problem and dealt with it similarly, by banning the sale of individual cigars earlier this year.

The second bill, 18-0428, is also designed to curb underage smoking by making it harder for kids to purchase tobacco products.

One less sale of a tobacco product to a teen could mean that one less teen grows up to be a smoker. That means less cancer and less cardiovascular disease, for the smoker and everyone around him. And that means lower health care costs for all of us.

In addition, a provision of bill 18-0428 clarifies that building owners may post no-smoking signs outside their premises.

It is well-documented that people with asthma and other respiratory illnesses suffer consequences from being exposed to secondhand smoke. For some, the effects are dramatic and immediate. Those with heart conditions are vulnerable as well.

Right now, in a number of locations, smokers congregate outside building entrances, and the smoke seeps back into the buildings when doors or windows are opened. In fact, a number of people have called Smokefree DC to report problems with secondhand smoke seeping into their workspaces from open doors and windows. Callers included a distraught worker at a cardiology practice and office workers with asthma who could never open her windows to let fresh air in.

This thwarts the purpose of the smokefree workplaces law that the Council passed in 2006 and that took effect in 2007—which was to protect workers and the public from the dangers of secondhand smoke in public spaces indoors.

This sensible, voluntary provision would help solve this problem.

SmokefreeDC fully support bills these bills and urge their passage.

Thank you.

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