Food tastes better...without a serving of smoke.

The Public Health and Workplace Safety Act of Rhode Island protects patrons and employees from second-hand smoke inside bars and restaurants, but does not extend into outdoor dining areas. Even outside, migrating cigarette smoke can compromise the health and diminish the dining experience of others. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, there is no safe level of second-hand smoke exposure.

Smoke-free outdoor dining policies protect public health. The California Air Resources Board has identified second-hand smoke as a toxic air contaminant, which is an outdoor air pollutant that may cause or contribute to disease and death(1). Outdoor workplaces that permit smoking, such as patio dining areas, can expose restaurant workers and patrons to this toxic air contaminant at levels that exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limit on fine particulate air pollution(2). Further, researchers have found that someone standing within a few feet of a smoker outdoors may be exposed to similar levels of contaminants as someone exposed to second-hand smoke inside a restaurant or home(3).

Smoke-free outdoor dining policies may even be good for business. In a recent survey conducted by community organizations throughout the state, 88 percent of respondents said they either "liked" or "loved" the idea of smoke-free outdoor dining areas.

Smoke-free outdoor public spaces can also impact beliefs about smoking. Perceptions that smoking is prevalent can make adolescents more susceptible to smoking, so reducing how many people children see smoking is important(4, 5). Eliminating smoking in public outdoor spaces can diminish the perceived popularity of smoking. With 1,300 children under the age of 18 who become new daily smokers each year in Rhode Island, there is still work to be done to reduce the risk of youth smoking.

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