The Health section incorrectly reported yesterday that no Senate action has been taken on the Comprehensive Smokeless Tobacco and Health Education Act of 1985. The bill has been approved by the Labor and Human Resources Committee and is awaiting Senate action.
Contrary to the dire warnings of the tobacco industry and other critics, San Francisco's landmark anti-smoking law has been neither expensive nor difficult to enforce.
"It has been one of the biggest non-events in San Francisco," says Dr. Michael Martin, an epidemiologist at the University of California at San Francisco. He presented a study of the law's enforcement at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association here last month.
The law, which took effect March 1, 1984, requires employers to adopt, post and maintain a written smoking policy that considers the preferences of both smokers and nonsmokers. If compromise is not possible -- if even one nonsmoker is not satisfied by the policy -- the employer must ban smoking in the workplace.
The law regulates smoking only in work areas, not hallways, lounges or bathrooms. Violations are punishable by fines of up to $500 a day.
During the first 10 months, Martin reported, the city Department of Public Health received 102 complaints under the new law, but resolved all of them without legal action or fines. Complaints have declined steadily since the first two months the law was in effect.
No new employes were hired to enforce the law. It was administered by one of the city's 60 public health inspectors, who spends an average of about one quarter of his time on the program.
A tobacco industry-funded group called San Franciscans Against Government Intrusion mobilized against the law as soon as it was passed in 1983, claiming it would be costly and divisive and would incite many lawsuits against employers and the city. The group collected enough signatures to submit the law to a public referendum in November, 1983, and spent $1.2 million in a campaign for its repeal.
Voters narrowly upheld the law, 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent.
The results in San Francisco, Martin says, show that laws regulating smoking in the workplace "can be easily adopted and maintained."