Patios at Napa eateries go smoke-free
Tobacco use is the number one cause of preventable disease and premature death in the nation, and it's killing 43,000 Californians each year, according to a recent study.
Armed with these statistics, Manuel Cordero, director of the Napa County Tobacco Control Program, has been lobbying area restaurants to make outdoor patios smoke-free.
So far, 11 Napa restaurants have jumped on board since the effort began last year, encouraged by statistics that claim for every smoker lost to the new rule, two new customers are gained.
"We provide them with statistics that say they're not going to lose any clients," Cordero said.
By law, all companies and organizations have the right to eliminate smoking entirely on their property -- indoors or outdoors -- or to limit smoking to designated outdoor areas only.
Restaurants exercising that right in Napa include Cole's Chop House, Celadon, El Potrillo, Tannya's Taqueria, both Starbucks locations on Trancas Street, and all of the eateries in Silverado Plaza, including New York Pizza, Jamba Juice, High-Tech Burrito and Cold Stone Creamery.
The statewide ban on smoking in the workplace, including restaurants, went into effect in 1995. By 1998, Californians had voted to extend the smoking ban to include bars.
Despite the move to make some area patios smoke-free, not everyone is choosing to follow the rules.
"People have the right to smoke outside," said Adam Rusin of Napa, as he smoked in front of Starbucks in the Silverado Plaza, just feet from a sign prohibiting him from doing so. "Outside is the last place left to smoke."
At the other end of the patio area, Nancy Vossos of Fairfield said the non-smoking patio was the difference between eating her sandwich in her car or at a sunny table.
"I don't smoke, it gags me," she said. "I just saw the (non-smoking) signs. It definitely affects my choice (of where to eat). No question about it."
The tobacco control program, funded by tobacco taxes from Prop. 99, has focused primarily on Napa establishments for the past year. It will branch out to the rest of the valley in future months.
Cordero has approached more than 60 eateries so far, some of which were crossed off the target list because they don't have a patio area.
A common response Cordero receives from owners is that their patios are already smoke-free, although the rule hasn't been formalized in writing or enforced by signage.
That's dangerous territory, Cordero said, because a manager or owner won't be able to back up the policy when it's challenged.
"We're trying to convince them to have a written policy," Cordero said.
Another common echo by restaurant owners is they "don't want to be associated with politics or tobacco programs," Cordero said.
The agency's most recent converts are Celadon and Cole's Chop House.
"For a big restaurant, they're not afraid of what other people say, when they say they're going to lose clients," Cordero said.
Celadon manager Jon Tindall said the restaurant has always maintained a smoke-free patio, but adopting a formal policy removes any ambiguity for customers or employees.
"Typically, there's not too much of an issue about it," Tindall said. "They know California doesn't allow smoking inside the restaurant, and we kind of see it as being the same thing out-of-doors."