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Published: Wednesday, 7/11/2001

Smokers hit harder in Cleveland suburb

BY LUKE SHOCKMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Smoking won't be allowed outside in city or school-owned ballparks, playgrounds, and some other city-controlled areas, if Shaker Heights city council passes its ban.

Shaker Heights, an affluent community of about 29,000 people, will vote on the proposal July 23. A majority of the seven-member council has indicated they support the ban, which would affect 28 outdoor locations: 11 playgrounds, 15 ball fields, and two other outdoor gathering areas.

Outdoor smoking would be allowed in most areas of city parks.

News of the Shaker Heights proposal surprised Dr. David Grossman, health commissioner for the Toledo-Lucas County health department, which passed a ban on smoking inside all public places on May 24.

The Lucas County ban has been challenged in court by bar and restaurant owners, and enforcement of the ban, which was to go into effect July 8, has been put on hold during the court challenge.

Dr. Grossman said he doesn't support an outdoor ban, saying he doubted a health board could justify an outdoor ban on health reasons.

“It would be hard to prove the threat of [outdoor] smoke,” he said.

The proposal by Shaker Heights is unusual because it tries to regulate smoking outside, but Tim Filler, a spokesman for Americans for Nonsmokers Rights in Berkeley, Calif., said about 90 communities in the United States regulate outdoor smoking.

That compares with about 750 communities outside of California that regulate smoking indoors by either banning it completely or requiring smoking to take place in a separate room.

“We've seen more [outdoor smoking regulations] recently, but it's still not a significant trend,” Mr. Filler said. “From our perspective, we suggest people work from the inside out. If you're going to spend your time on clean air, look where people are most threatened by it first.”

While the Lucas County effort got the most attention because it would ban smoking inside bars, restaurants, and bowling alleys, it also would regulate some types of outdoor smoking.

It would ban smoking within 20 feet of the doorway or other opening leading into a public area.

Arnie Elzey, owner of Arnie's Eating and Drinking Saloon in West Toledo, said that part of the ban frustrated bar and restaurant owners who feel it would be hard to enforce. In addition, he said it would hurt outdoor patio business for some establishments.

Mr. Elzey, who is one of the business owners who challenged the Lucas County ban, said he was neither surprised nor concerned by an ordinance like the one Shaker Heights is considering.

“That will probably be the next train to come through,” he said of the outdoor-ban proposal.

However, Mr. Elzey said a ban like the Shaker Heights proposal wouldn't affect bar and restaurants, and “it's different because it's an elected body” making the decision.

One of Mr. Elzey's criticisms of the Lucas County ban has been that the 11-member appointed board of health voted on it.

Dr. Grossman proposed the Lucas County ban because of the potential danger of secondhand smoke. But the Shaker Heights city council “didn't really get into the health discussion over this”, according to council member Brian Gleisser. Shaker Heights does not ban smoking inside bars or restaurants.

Mr. Gleisser, who opposes the proposal, said the city's director of health wants to make it easier for city police to enforce a state law making it illegal for minors to possess cigarettes. Police would not have to worry about trying to determine who was a minor and smoking at outdoor settings like playgrounds. In addition, Mr. Gleisser said another concern was that adults or teens smoking at playgrounds or ball parks set a bad example for children.

Stephanie Turner, another council member opposed to the proposal, said “most people I've spoken with think it's the most ridiculous thing they've ever heard of.”

“They say you're taking liberties away from adults,” she said.

Earl Leiken, a council member who supports the proposal, said he agrees with the city's health director in that “it is not a good model for children to have adults at playgrounds and baseball games standing around smoking.”



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