ANAHEIM — A city councilman has asked the city to look into the feasibility of banning cigarette advertising and smoking in the seating areas at city-owned Anaheim Stadium and the almost-completed Anaheim Arena.
"Smoking adversely affects other people who are sitting nearby, so I just don't think we should allow it," said Councilman Irv Pickler, who gave up a 30-year smoking habit about 20 years ago. His proposal would limit smoking at the stadium to the concourse behind the seating area and limit it at the arena to the lobby.
If Pickler's smoking ban is passed--he has the support of Mayor Tom Daly--Anaheim Stadium would join San Diego's Jack Murphy Stadium, Detroit's Tiger Stadium and Dallas' Texas Stadium among major outdoor sporting facilities to forbid lighting up in seating areas at all events. The other three councilmen could not be reached this week for comment.
The Oakland Athletics baseball team also bans smoking in the seating area of the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum during its games, but smoking is allowed at other events.
Most indoor arenas nationwide, including the Great Western Forum in Inglewood and the Los Angeles Sports Arena, prohibit or restrict smoking, and the private firm that will operate the Anaheim Arena for the city already has said it would like to prohibit smoking there as well.
There has been little publicity about the proposal, but in a series of interviews this week, the concept drew condemnation from smokers' rights groups while earning praise from anti-smoking organizations.
In discussing the proposal, Pickler said he wants tobacco-related advertising prohibited because it encourages children to smoke.
The prospects for the advertising ban are muddied, however, because the city has five- and 10-year contracts with a cigarette company that leases one interior and three exterior billboards at the ballpark.
These billboards generate $350,000 annually for the city, and another $200,000 is split among the California Angels, the Los Angeles Rams, the company that sells the ads and Sony Corp., which built the stadium scoreboard. Total billboard revenue for the stadium is more than $3 million annually.
Walker Merriman, vice president of the Tobacco Institute, a smokers' rights group based in Washington, said that while there might be reasons to limit smoking at an indoor arena, he sees no reason to ban it throughout the seating area of an outdoor stadium.
"I don't believe that it is necessary to stigmatize the portion of the population that smokes by forcing them to leave their seats to have a cigarette," he said. Merriman suggested that the stadium institute no-smoking sections instead.
"Businesses should make accommodations for all of their customers," Merriman said.
He also criticized the advertising ban, saying that tobacco ads are not aimed at nonsmokers or children but are a manufacturer's attempt to retain the loyalty of its current customers and take away smokers from other brands.
But Ruth Newlin of the Los Angeles County Lung Assn. said the health risks of secondhand smoke warrant a ban on in-seat smoking at stadiums.
"Studies show that secondhand smoke contributes to 53,000 deaths yearly among nonsmokers," said Newlin, head of the group's tobacco control project. "It also contributes to attacks among the 10% of our local population that is asthmatic. And there are many children at sporting events, and tobacco smoke is particularly harmful to them because their lungs are not fully developed."
She also supported the advertising ban, saying that Camel went from claiming less than 1% to more than 10% of the illegal underage teen-age market after introducing the cartoon character "Joe Camel" to its advertising arsenal in 1987.
If tobacco ads are banned at Anaheim Stadium, the facility would join four others with similar bans: Jack Murphy Stadium, Orioles Park in Baltimore, the Kingdome in Seattle and the Metrodome in Minneapolis. While the debate over banning smoking in the seating areas will focus on issues of health and individual rights, the proposed ban on tobacco-related billboards will add two other ingredients to the discussion: money and law.
Jim Nagourney, whose company places advertising at Anaheim Stadium and other sports facilities throughout the country, said that tobacco firms began paying top dollar for stadium advertising after their products were banned from television and radio 20 years ago and now spend $100 million annually on sports-related ads.
Tobacco companies, along with beer manufacturers, are the largest buyers of stadium billboards in the country. And, by paying a premium for the best signage at ballparks, they have driven up stadium billboard prices across the board. Remove the tobacco ads and other companies will be able to demand cheaper rates, said Nagourney, president of New York-based Spencer Sports Media.
"This seemingly innocent snowball could roll down the hill and get bigger and bigger," Nagourney said.