Dining Al Fresco with a Side of Fresh Air
By Dannah Hosford, Project Coordinator, Vista Community Clinic (VCC) Tobacco Control Programs. Ms. Hosford has 9 years of experience in the public health field, with a focus on prevention programs for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. VCC’s Tobacco Control Programs promote smoke-free environments for parks and beaches, colleges, outdoor dining, transit, and multi-unit housing.
San Diego, known for its warm weather and sunny skies, offers a nearly year-round opportunity for outdoor dining! Nothing symbolizes Southern California like your favorite dish served on a dining patio while enjoying a sunset.
Sadly, few things ruin your favorite meal faster than the smell of cigarette smoke. Scientific evidence indicates that there is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure (2010 Surgeon General’s Report).
In a survey of 553 Oceanside residents conducted by Vista Community Clinic, we found that:
· 80% of survey participants reported that they have been bothered by secondhand smoke when eating outside in a restaurant patio.
· 90% of those surveyed preferred to eat on patios where smoking was not allowed.
· 60% reported that they would eat out MORE if outdoor dining areas were smoke free.
Smoke-free outdoor dining is of great value to restaurant patrons, and would largely benefit the hospitality staff. In 2009 a study from the University of Georgia found that those exposed to outdoor tobacco smoke for periods of 6 hours or more were found to have up to 162 times the amount of cotinine in their bloodstream. Cotinine is what remains in the bloodstream after nicotine from tobacco smoke is metabolized and it is used as an indicator for exposure to tobacco smoke. Although normally restaurant patrons don’t have 6 hour lunches or dinners, this is the typical shift for a waiter or waitress. Reducing or eliminating secondhand smoke exposure at work can mean less sick time used by staff, and therefore less expense to the owner of the restaurant. Smoke-free patios will protect workers’ health.
Studies have shown that restaurant and bar business has actually increased since smoke-free policies went into effect in California. (2002 CA DHS report)
In response to this restaurant owners all over the State are offering a side of fresh air to their loyal patrons by eliminating smoking on their outdoor dining patios. Jurisdictions are even getting into the act, as of October 2012, 86 cities and 5 counties in California have adopted smoke-free outdoor dining policies. including seven cities in San Diego County: Chula Vista, Del Mar, El Cajon, Encinitas, National City, Solana Beach and most recently the City of Carlsbad.
These policies safeguard the employer, employees and diners from unwanted secondhand smoke exposure. It’s time to join the smoke-free outdoor dining movement.
If you are interested in going smoke-free on your dining patio, please contact Dannah Hosford, Vista Community Clinic Project Coordinator of the Tobacco Control Programs at 760-631-5000 x. 7166 or email: Dhosford@vistacommunityclinic.org