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It may soon get a lot tougher to smoke cigarettes outdoors as well as indoors in San Francisco, and that worries some bar and restaurant owners and workers in the Mission. In interviews, they said that the new restrictions would be hard to enforce and would cost them business.

Supervisor Eric Mar proposed the ordinance to extend smoking restrictions in San Francisco because “there is no safe level of exposure from secondhand smoke,” according to the legislation’s co-sponsor, Supervisor John Avalos.

After continuing the legislation last week without a vote, the Board of Supervisors is expected to consider the ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting.

“This is the government trying to control personal choice,” said Jonny Boss, a bartender at Elbo Room. “It’s a little strange to keep pushing smokers away. Where now are smokers going to go?”

As a courtesy to neighbors and to “please the police,” the Elbo Room recently started asking patrons to smoke  on only one side of the building — in the alley, Boss said.

That would still be permitted under the proposed ordinance: It will be okay to smoke at a curb, sidewalk or alley as long as you are not near any building’s entrance, exit, window or vent.

But Martin Rapalski, owner of Latin American Club, thinks such rules are too severe.

“As an anti-smoker I embraced the initial ban on smoking indoors,” said Rapalski, who allows patrons to sit in front of the building and smoke. “Outside is a little extreme. It will be a difficult thing to enforce.”

Bill Stone, owner of Atlas Cafe, also worries about losing business if the ordinance passes.

“Some people come here because they know they can smoke,” said Stone, who allows patrons to smoke in the cafe’s back patio and sidewalk seating.

He added that “the Board of Supervisors should worry about more important things … At the same time no one can dispute secondhand smoke is bad for you.”

If the ordinance passes, he said he plans to support it by removing ashtrays and putting up signs — just don’t count on him “going around, yanking cigarettes out of anyone’s hands.”

The full list of prohibited areas as specified in the ordinance includes:

  1. Business establishments and bars regardless of whether owner-operated
  2. Common areas of multi-unit housing complexes
  3. Tourist lodging facilities
  4. Tobacco shops
  5. Charity bingo games
  6. Unenclosed dining areas of restaurants
  7. Service waiting areas
  8. Areas outside entrances, exits and operable windows and vents of all buildings except at the curb of the nearest street, sidewalk or alley
  9. Farmers markets
  10. Vehicles owned by the City and County of San Francisco

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Kimberly is currently a journalism major and business minor at San Francisco State University. Come May 2010, she will be moving on to bigger and better things, i.e. living and breathing journalism, not just studying it. But for now you can usually find her at City Hall every Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meetings. Having lived her entire life in San Francisco, she itches to travel far and wide, most likely to be convinced that every other city and town pales in comparison.

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  1. Smokers have no right to pollute the air and litter the ground anywhere it affects other living things.

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  2. This seems like the logical next step in avoiding second-hand smoke. I can see where bar owners would be hesitant — but I love to go outside when I’m at a restaurant or bar, and I would love it more if there was no smoke. I don’t think it will be bad for business because most people don’t smoke any more — but they still go out.

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