Proposed smoking deregulation is unnecessary

By Lucas Skye

De-regulating current DeKalb outdoor smoking regulations would be unnecessary and misguided.

First Ward Alderperson David Jacobson and Sixth Ward Alderperson Michael Verbic asked the City Council to reconsider its stance on outdoor smoking Jan, 22, according to a Jan. 25 Northern Star article. The City Council will vote on this proposal Feb. 12

“Smoking is prohibited within 15 feet from any entrance, passageway, operable window or ventilation system of any area where smoking is prohibited and is prohibited within 15 feet of any Outdoor Patio, so as to ensure that tobacco smoke does not enter the area through entrances, windows, ventilation systems or other means,” according to DeKalb Municipal Code Chapter 64.

These regulations may soon change, as Jacobson proposes DeKalb give restaurant owners the power to choose if patrons can smoke on outdoor patios.

“I think that the idea of individual liberty is a good idea,” said Matthew Moore, senior political science major. “Give businesses the right to make their own choices. Give the population their right to decide which business they’re gonna frequent, but the underlying belief that this is gonna cure the ails of DeKalb’s declining economy is stupid. It’s not going to have any significant impact,”

Giving restaurant owners more freedom when it comes to their private property is a good thing but not when it comes at the expense of people’s health.

By giving establishments the right to choose their outdoor smoking policy, Jacobson hopes more students will experience an enhanced nightlife and be more willing to stay in DeKalb.

“A stated goal in our community is to attract students to stay, and nightlife is consistently rated their No. 1 issue of why they don’t stay here,” said Jacobson.

Making public smoking acceptable is misguided and will have little to no effect on students’ decisions about staying in DeKalb. Smoking has been on a steady and constant decline since 1965 when 42.4 percent of adults were smokers; in 2014, only 16.8 percent of adults were smokers, according to the Centers of Disease Control’s most recent statistics.

“The ability to smoke isn’t going to dramatically alter people’s nightlife,” said Moore. “They aren’t going to say ‘Oh, I was going to go home this weekend to have fun, but now since DeKalb lets me smoke at certain restaurants, I’m going to stay.’”

This proposal comes at a cost to non-smoking patrons. Allowing people to smoke in public eliminates non-smokers’ choice to avoid the harmful effects of tobacco and secondhand smoke. Despite having the option to not use the outdoor patio, just passing by the area to enter the establishment can be damaging.

“There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure; even brief exposure can be harmful to health”, according to the CDC.

Secondhand smoke is not the only concern non-smokers have to face but also the lesser-known Third-Hand smoke. Thirdhand smoke refers to the leftover chemicals left of surfaces after smoking according, to the American Non-smokers Rights Association. These leftover substances can then find their way back into the air, recombine and form carcinogenic compounds, according to an April 2010 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States article. An outdoor smoker can bring back leftover particles back which will then form cancer causing compounds that affect other patrons.

This secondary effects are especially harmful to those who deal with asthma symptoms. ”Lots of things can trigger an asthma attack, but one of the most common causes is oder,” according to a Nov. 17 NPR article. Asthmatic patrons don’t even need to be exposed to the smoke itself, an outdoor smoker can come into the establishment smelling heavily of smoke, potentially provoking another patron to experience a asthma attack.

Smoking is a personal lifestyle choice, but when officials make smoking in public acceptable it allows a smoker to make that decision for someone else without their consent via second and third-hand smoke.