The In-Box

The In-Box

Letters to the Times


I read your Alioto story in the October issue [“Angela Alioto on the 25th anniversary of the smoking ban,” Reynolds Rap]. Angela certainly deserves great credit for our smoke-free ordinances, but it’s disappointing she failed to acknowledge those of us who conceived and initiated this effort, or the fact it was born right here in the Marina-Cow Hollow District in December 1989.

A brief history: After approaching over a half-dozen supervisors, only Angela was interested in restricting smoking. When that happened, a number of us drafted initial legislation and created a strong coalition to lobby other supervisors and the mayor’s office. We pushed the Chronicle and Examiner editorial boards for support (because they were strongly opposed), gave media appearances, drafted letters to the editor, found key public health officials willing to testify, and were vociferously and publicly rebuked by celebrity chefs like Jeremiah Tower for allegedly trying [to drive] their establishments to Marin and Berkeley. We worked closely with Angela on strategy and tactics, and helped to steer her clear of serious problems that could have derailed the effort, including convincing her to relinquish bars initially, which would have caused Mayor Frank Jordan to veto the restaurant ordinance. (With only a slim supervisor majority, his approval was essential).

Also left unacknowledged are the courageous restaurant and bar workers who put their jobs on the line by testifying at the hearings; Professor Stan Glantz at USF, who gave dramatic testimony that put him at odds with his more conservative colleagues; Hal Offen, the president of the Coalition of Lavender-Americans on Smoking and Health; Karen Licavoli at the American Lung Association of San Francisco and San Mateo Counties; and the staff at Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights in Berkeley, which helped on all aspects of building a successful effort.

Angela has done many wonderful things for the city of San Francisco, but she should remember to spread the credit to those of us who approached her in the first place and did all we could to make this ordinance a reality — and to our district, where it all started.

–Russell Long, Sustainable San Francisco


Thank you for your profile of Angela Alioto’s pioneering work on anti-tobacco policies in San Francisco. As part of the coalition of health groups working on those issues at the time, I was able to witness her handling of the tidal wave of tobacco lobbyists, some in disguise, fighting our efforts. Alioto handled them with aplomb and humor. And as you note, some of the policies she spearheaded then spread far and wide, to the benefit of all — other than the tobacco industry. She can indeed be extremely proud of those accomplishments.

–Steve Heilig, San Francisco Medical Society


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