As a child, were you ever the kind of kid to scrunch their nose, and sniff haughtily as you passed by an unbothered smoker? Well, you did this for good reason—other than just despising the smell. My name is Anagha Dogiparthi, and I am writing this letter as a concerned high school student who believes that more needs to be done to improve the effects of secondhand smoke (SHS).
Research conducted by major institutions such as the NIH has established that SHS can be detrimental to outsiders’ health. Unfortunately, in Santa Clara County, we are still working to eliminate smoking in public places as a whole to protect helpless communities such as the elderly and children in the area.
Thank you to the Gilroy Dispatch for carrying out this impactful op-ed by Councilmember Zach Hilton. Considering data on the dangers of SHS has been publicized for decades, it is helpful that major news sources are covering updates and information on legislation surrounding its prohibition. I would like to thank Councilmember Hilton for his unfailing perseverance throughout the process that eventually brought a unanimous vote for tobacco prevention legislation banning smoking in Multi-Family Residences and Public Events on Feb. 6. Although this victory seems sweet now, many people do not realize that its passing was a hard-earned battle—Councilmember Hilton’s vote was initially rejected at the Nov. 15, 2021 meeting, and he had to work to reintroduce it as an agenda item starting May 2022 leading up to February.
When considering such a monumental piece of legislation, it’s easy to assume that the battle ends here; but what final action would make this moment more perfect? Of course, the addition of smoke-free dining. Currently, Gilroy is the only city that allows restaurants to section off 50% of their outdoor dining area for smoking. This rule needs to be changed to reflect the other cities in Santa Clara County, and restrict outdoor smoking in dining areas entirely in order for the law to be effective. If this is included in the ordinance, it would only improve the lives of the elderly and younger communities in the county.
The lack of protection of separated “zones” is the main reason why Gilroy’s “50%” rule must be changed to “100%”; 50% protection is not enough, and must be increased to the total amount. From now on, this should include outdoor areas, where many unprotected children and elderly citizens are at high risk.