San Francisco officials unveiled an ad campaign today that they hope will help residents understand newly extended smoking ban restrictions taking effect this year.
In March, the Board of Supervisors passed an extension of the city's smoking ban that prohibits smoking in service lines, farmers markets, apartment building and hotel common areas, taxicabs, and within 15 feet of business entrances, vents and windows.
Most of the changes took effect April 24, and beginning in October, smoking in outdoor dining areas and smoke shops also will be outlawed.
Although the city will monitor compliance and issue fines to repeat offenders, officials said at a news conference today the ordinance will largely depend on self-regulation and need to be enforced by communities.
Officials therefore decided to roll out a new ad campaign, Smoke Free San Francisco, in time for summer, Supervisor Eric Mar said.
"Enforcement really depends on broad community awareness," he said. "There aren't very strong penalties. This is one of the issues the Department of Health has to grapple with."
The Smoke Free SF ads are posted throughout the city at bus stops and on San Francisco Municipal Railway vehicles. English, Spanish and Chinese language versions all feature photos and lists of places where smoking is now prohibited.
Officials hope people will be able to point to the signs and start a polite conversation if their neighbors are smoking illegally.
"We can't police every bus stop, ATM, farmers market," said Mitch Katz, San Francisco's director of public health. "What it requires is people saying, 'Smoke is not allowed here.'"
Katz said there is no "safe level" of second-hand smoke. The carcinogens in cigarettes immediately affect artery width, and inhaling second-hand smoke increases risk of heart attack for the next 10 minutes.
After that window passes, second-hand smoke has a cumulative effect and increases risk of coronary heart disease, cancer and asthma, Katz said.
A senior health inspector said businesses are also responsible for enforcing the new restrictions. Eventually they will need to post new signage, but the city will work them before taking punitive action, inspector Janine Young said.
"In the long term we will issue a notice of violation, but we will work with you first," she said.
Noncompliance could eventually lead to a $500 fine for businesses, she said. Individuals who repeatedly smoke in prohibited areas could be issued a $75 fine. Anyone who witnesses offenders can call 311, and the city will send an inspector to the site.
Youth leaders with the Chinese Progressive Association also attended the news conference today and encouraged San Franciscans to help enforce the ban, which the group worked for years to help pass.
The youth surveyed more than 280 Chinatown families in 2008 and found that more than 90 percent of the people they talked to would support a stricter smoking ban.
Goby Yu, an 18-year-old with the group, said her family had at least three to five smokers.
"I know that, due to language barriers, it's hard for people to voice their opinions," she said of the Chinatown community. "We need to stand up and protect their rights."