cigarettes1.jpgThey Are Coming To Get Your Smokes, Just Not Today

Smoking kills, that we all know. But what can kill smoking? This question weighed heavily on the Board of Supervisors’ minds Monday, when a proposed law creating a “no-buying-smokes zone” near schools stalled out, but not because the Board doesn’t want to stamp out butts completely (because, as they said during a committee hearing Monday morning, they certainly do).

The law, introduced by Mayor Gavin Newsom, would put the kibosh on new licenses for tobacco sales within 1,000 feet of schools (existing licenses are fine but would only be renewed if the license transferred within a family; business partners would be left out in the cold). The numbers are alarming, if you’re an alarmist: one-third of San Francisco youth said it’s easy to buy cigarettes, and whether they’re legal sales or otherwise, over 70 percent of cigarettes sold in this dense burg are sold within 1,000 feet of a school, we’re told, by store owners who are largely people of color.

So it’s a public health problem — there’s no safe level for tobacco consumption, reminded Dr. Mitch Katz, the director of the Department of Public Health. But what, the Board wondered, is a safe and/or acceptable level of tobacco sales? If we will ban smokes within 10 blocks of a school, why not an outright ban on cigarette sales throughout all of San Francisco? This isn’t such a bad idea in the minds of some on the Board; the time merely isn’t right.

“Ultimately, we’ll get to the point when we won’t have any tobacco at all to deal with, and we look forward to that day,” said Supervisor John Avalos, who was joined by moderate supervisors Carmen Chu and Sean Elsbernd in dissing the Mayor’s plan. But in the meantime, the laws already on the books — like the one, you know, banning sale to and use of tobacco by you pesky punk kids! — should be enforced before new ones are put on the books.

“I just don’t think this legislation is going to accomplish anywhere close to [its goal],” Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said. That goal is, presumably, convincing people smoking is bad, bad bad. And doing something about the merchants who, under the direction of Satan or some pure evil, still sell Kools and Camels to kids.

The Appeal put in a word to the Mayor’s Office to see if the legislation would be strengthened before it heads to the full Board for a pending doom, or if perhaps Buttman himself would be recruited to combat cigarettes in SF. We’ll post back when and if we hear anything.

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