Celebrating with smoke-free outdoor dining

North County Times, November 28, 2011

Forum: Celebrating with smoke-free outdoor dining

by Nancy Logan

While many of our friends and family in the Midwest or East Coast are  bundling up this holiday season to shop and dine, we in North County enjoy  beautiful, sunny, smoke-free dining in many of our cities. Sunny and smoke-free  outdoor dining during December —- what a perfect stress-relieving, healthy  treat during an often-hectic time.

Yes, we’ve been blessed with North County’s weather, but also with dedicated  city and community leaders who have worked to provide healthy smoke-free dining  options.

A leader for healthy smoke-free venues is Solana Beach Deputy Mayor Joe  Kellejian.

“Nothing kills a great dining experience quicker than inhaling secondhand  smoke. It really spoils what could be such a pleasant experience with family or  friends,” Kellejian said.

Solana Beach has ignited a movement to go smoke-free in many other North  County cities, and other California cities have taken notice and implemented  similar outdoor smoke-free dining policies. A little city north of us called Los  Angeles is one example.

“I’ve been invited to attend council meetings in several cities across  California to testify on why and how cities can provide more smoke-free venues.  It’s been such a positive change in Solana Beach, so I’m eager to see other  cities benefit, as well,” Kellejian said.

With only 1 in 10 residents of San Diego County still smoking, it’s important  to note that for the vast majority of patrons, secondhand smoke is not only a  menu item no one would order, it’s also something unpleasant and unwanted.

We know the dangers of smoking, but it’s important to note the real dangers  of secondhand smoke. The U.S. surgeon general says breathing even a little  secondhand smoke poses a risk to your health. The U.S. Environmental Protection  Agency confirms that secondhand smoke carries carcinogens, which cause cancer.  So ensuring that venues such as outdoor dining areas are smoke-free directly  affects our health.

Additionally, outdoor smoking-free dining protects restaurant employees  against dangerous secondhand smoke. Nobody should have to compromise his or her  health while at work. In fact, the National Institute for Occupational Safety  and Health has concluded that secondhand smoke is an occupational  carcinogen.

“One of the best things that ever happened to me was when the restaurant I  worked at went to smoke-free dining,” said Josh Bergen. “I used to always dread  being assigned the outdoor area, because the smoke would make me nauseous and  irritate my eyes. It’s really relieved a lot of stress on me.”

Nancy Logan is a prevention specialist for the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug  Free Youth and an Encinitas resident.