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

Phil Mendelson's questionnaire answers

The city’s smokefree workplaces law was weakened last summer when the Council agreed to allow cigar smoking at hotels for two events annually. The Council acted without holding hearings or seeking public input. Instead, the exemptions were tacked onto a budget amendment. Would you vote to remove the exemptions? Please explain why or why not. Yes [yes]
Comment I introduced amendments at two different legislative meetings to try to remove the cigar event exceptions from the bills. I was outvoted 12-1 and 9-3. The temporary legislation has since expired and we are left with the original Budget Support Act exemption of a cigar event once a year in every D.C. hotel. I am happy to introduce legislation to remove the exemption as tobacco smoke is a serious health issue. No one should have to work in an unsafe environment, especially when the remedy is as easy as stepping outside. However, I think that the committee process was subverted in creating the exemption. That violation of the legislative process should not be repeated. Removal of the exemption should be in the form of a bill that is sent to the Committee on Health for a hearing and public comment before being voted on by the full Council. I will support removal of the exemption at every step.
If elected, will you pledge not to further weaken the smokefree workplaces law? Yes [yes]
Comment I co-introduced the original smokefree workplace bill and I have been a solid supporter ever since. I was alone in voting for my amendment to remove the cigar exemption in the Budget Support Act. I demonstrated a commitment to making the law stronger in the bill that I introduced with the support of Smokefree DC, “Prohibition Against Selling Tobacco Products To Minors Amendment Act of 2009,” now law 18-0189.
Would you vote to strengthen the smokefree workplaces law to include outdoor cafes? What about parks and other recreational areas?
Outdoor cafes Yes [yes]
Parks Yes [yes]
Other recreational areas Yes [yes]
Please enter your comment about the above question here I am open to consider proposals to strengthen the smokefree workplaces law to include outdoor cafes, parks, and recreational areas. I am open to ideas on how that would be accomplished.
Would you vote to make secondhand smoke an actionable nuisance like excessive noise? (Doing so would make it easier for nonsmokers who suffer secondhand smoke encroaching in their apartments to take their smoking neighbors to court.)
Comment There ought to be a public hearing on this proposal to elicit the best means to make this happen and to educate the Council and the public on the issues.
Would you vote to increase funding for tobacco cessation programs in D.C.? Yes [yes]
Comment We are clearly failing to live up to the CDC’s recommended levels of cessation program funding. If we do not help people quit, we cannot expect the smoking rates to decline.
Would you vote to increase the District’s tax on cigarettes? Yes [yes]
Comment I would consider a tax increase in the future, but not at this time. We need to continually reassess the balance point that reduces smoking without creating a black (or gray) market.
One of your constituents has called your office to inform you that secondhand smoke is coming into their condo or apartment.  Attempts to remedy the situation have gone nowhere. What would you say to the constituent? I would meet with the constituent and assign a staff person to be their primary contact in my office. I would make sure that the constituent understands their rights and options and I would put them in touch with advocacy groups that have specific expertise such as Smokefree DC and TENAC. I would work with a renter’s building-management or condo association to ensure they are addressing the problem so that non-smokers are not subjected to second-hand smoke against their will and the quiet enjoyment of their homes, which includes a safe, smoke-free environment. Non-smokers have the right not be subjected to second-hand smoke, either in public or, most especially, in their own homes. Living in multi-family buildings, as so many of our neighbors do, should not require giving up this right.