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

Building owners soon will be able to post “no smoking” signs

The D.C. Council today took a solid step toward firming up the city’s smokefree workplace law and ensuring that workers aren’t exposed to secondhand smoke on the job. In unanimously approving on first reading bill 18-428, the “Prohibition Against Selling  Tobacco Products to Minors Amendment Act of 2009,” the Council clarified that building owners can post “no smoking” signs in front of their buildings.

It’s a simple and very basic measure that will greatly help those who suffer when tobacco smoke enters buildings. It’s not a ban – there is no enforcement in the new legislation. However, we hope that smokers will abide by the request and move down the street.

When smoke drifts inside buildings, the purpose of the smokefree workplace law – to protect all workers from the carcinogens in secondhand smoke – is violated. Smokefree DC has received quite a few calls from people, including a worker in a cardiologist’s office, reporting that smoke is a chronic problem. We hope this will be a fix.

One worrisome thing is an amendment offered by the restaurant association — and approved by the Council — designed to ensure that sidewalk cafes aren’t affected if neighboring buildings post no-smoking signs. We are a bit concerned it could be interpreted to mean sidewalk cafes can’t be smokefree if they wish. Councilmember Phil Mendelson assured us that wasn’t the case; we are still looking into it.

This provision is a lot weaker than it could have been – some jurisdictions prohibit smoking within a set number of feet from entranceways. Check out, for instance, Washington state’s provision.

The bill also will make it harder for minors to obtain tobacco – see the Washington Examiner’s write-up.

There is still one more hurdle ; the D.C. Council needs to vote on more time on the bill. That should be later this month or in February.

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