Bill to combat sidewalk smoking moves forward

A D.C. Council bill that would allow D.C. business owners to ban smoking on the sidewalks outside their establishments moved forward with initial approval from the council earlier this month.

The smoking ban, introduced by D.C. Councilmember Phil Mendelson, D-At Large, would allow stores and businesses to post no smoking signs up to 25 feet away from their business.

The full council will most likely vote on the bill “sometime early [this] year,” according to a Washington Post report.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said the University will respond to and comply with the bill once it has been finalized, saying it is currently “too premature to speculate” on whether the University will post no smoking signs outside of buildings.

Joe Audi, the owner of GW Deli, said he has no plans to ban smoking outside. Students often smoke outside of the store, which has a large planter filled with sand for cigarette butts near the sidewalk.

“I would never do that,” Audi said of posting no smoking signs.

Audi said cigarette sales have dropped since the District began imposing higher taxes on cigarettes.

“When I first got here I sold 2,000 packs a week,” Audi said. “Now I sell 200. Sales have dropped tremendously.”

The proposed ban comes after several legislative and community-based efforts to regulate public smoking in D.C. Law school professor John Banzhaf threatened to sue the University in 2006 over public smoking issues, and several graduate students said they collected more than 500 signatures in an effort to lobby the University to ban smoking on University property last year.

Freshman Dyllan Mont said she doesn’t think the bill, if made into law, will be effective.

“I smoke, and [I don’t think] that people are going to be encouraged to quit because of a ban on smoking. It will just make them resent the leaders who enacted those rules,” Mont said.

But businesses should be allowed to ban smoking outside, freshman Alex Mizenko said

“I think that a store owner has the right to not want people to smoke in front of their stores,” Mizenko said.

The bill also levies large fines on smokers under the age of 18. Fines like that are too punitive, Mizenko said.

“I think it’s ridiculous to fine people for smoking under the age of 18. It’s an example of the government being too intrusive in people’s lives,” Mizenko said. “If they can manage to get the cigarettes, then they should be able to smoke.”

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