Marin Independent Journal

Marin strengthens smoking ban on county property

ORIGINAL ARTICLE HERE by Richard Halstead of Marin Independent Journal

In case there was any doubt, Marin supervisors made it clear Tuesday — no means no when it comes to smoking on county premises.

Supervisors on Tuesday voted unanimously to amend the law “to clarify the prohibition” adopted in 2007 that bans smoking inside all enclosed facilities owned or operated by the county, as well as in outdoor areas within 20 feet of any doors or operable windows.

“Currently there are designated smoking areas at county buildings,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s public health officer. “The only department that has truly smoke-free property within county governance is health and human services.”

Bob Curry, director of the Marin County Tobacco Control Program, said, “A lot of people have been smoking just 20 feet away from the Civic Center.”

County employees and visitors to county facilities now will have to walk off county property to smoke, Willis said.

Willis pointed out during the session Tuesday that there are holes where ash trays were once attached to the backs of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed chairs in the supervisors’ chambers.

“It used to be normative to smoke in this place,” Willis said. “We are positioning ourselves on a continuum of progress here.”

He noted that Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed legislation that takes effect next month raising the legal age for smoking tobacco to 21 and prohibiting all smoking in California schools, including charter schools.

The only person to comment on Marin’s new smoking ordinance was Scott Wilmore of Dillon Beach, who is running as a write-in candidate for county supervisor in the 4th District.

“I think this ordinance is ill-advised and in fact unconstitutional,” Wilmore said. “Smoking is a legal activity much like drinking. This is just another attempt to restrict individual freedom.”

Wilmore said labeling on cigarette packages is much better than in the past, indicating how much nicotine and tar is contained in the product.

“You know what you’re getting; it’s a fully informed decision,” Wilmore said. Willis said, “I just want to put tobacco in context. There is no form of tobacco use that is safe. There is no dose that is safe.”

Willis said regardless of whether a person is choosing to smoke or breathing someone else’s second-hand smoke, “There is harm at every level. Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable death.”

Willis said that according to a 2014 University of California, San Francisco report, smoking costs the county of Marin $138 million annually in lost production and medical costs.

“So we’re encouraging all county employees who still struggle with smoking to contact the county tobacco program, as they provide cessation services to all employees and residents who wish to stop smoking,” he said.

Individuals seeking help to stop smoking may also call 1-800-NOBUTTS.

Supervisor Steve Kinsey asked if an exception should be carved out for health and human services’ patients with mental health issues.

Willis said the idea that people with mental illness have a special need to smoke is one of the myths of mental illness and that smoking is one of the reasons that people with mental illness tend to live shorter lives. He said smoking at all of Marin’s health and human services campuses was banned in 2012 and patients have adapted.


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