Starbucks bans smoking within 25 feet of their stores

The combination of coffee and cigarettes are going to be a thing of the past, at least at Starbucks. Photo: AP/Starbucks

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2013 — Coffee and cigarettes are going to be a thing of the past, at least at Starbucks. Starting Saturday, the well known coffee shops are extending their cigarette ban from inside to their outside seating area as well.

Notices are going to be posted at all Starbucks coffee stores explaining that smoking will be restricted within 25 feet of the stores as well as in the outdoor seating areas. Spokeswoman Jaime Riley said the expanded rule stems from “a sense of responsibility to provide customers with a safe and healthy environment.”

The 25-feet smoke-free radius is flexible based on each store’s lease size, Riley said. If Starbucks-controlled property only extends 15 feet from a particular store’s exterior, then smokers outside the area are free to puff away if local law allows. 

The new decree applies to all 7,000 company-owned stores within the U.S. and Canada, regardless of whether the cafes feature outdoor seating. Some 4,000 other Starbucks locations, including licensed shops located within retailers such as Target and Barnes & Noble, are exempt.

Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with 20,891 stores in 62 countries. Since Starbucks’ founding in 1971 in Seattle as a local coffee bean roaster and retailer, the company has expanded rapidly. Since 1987, Starbucks has opened on average two new stores every day. The first store outside the United States or Canada opened in the mid-1990s, now overseas stores make up almost one third of Starbucks’ stores.

Starbucks has always wanted to be a retailer with a conscience. In 1999, Starbucks started “Grounds for your Garden” to make its business environmentally friendlier. Stores provide leftover coffee grounds free to anyone requesting them for composting. In 2004, Starbucks began reducing the size of its paper napkins and store garbage bags. As a result it lightened its solid waste production 1,800,000 pounds. Starbucks began using 10% recycled paper in its cups in 2004, which it claimed was the first time recycled material had been used in a product that came into direct contact with a food or beverage.

In 2000, the company introduced a line of fair trade products. Since launching its FTC coffee line in 2000, Starbucks has made a significant contribution to family farmers through its rapidly growing FTC coffee volume.

Ethos, a brand of bottled water acquired by Starbucks in 2003, is sold at locations throughout North America. Ethos bottles feature prominent labeling stating “helping children get clean water,” referring to the fact that $.05 from each $1.80 bottle sold is used to fund clean water projects in under-developed areas

In some states and municipalities which already restrict smoking space, Starbucks’ new policy will face little backlash but in other places like Great Neck, New York the ban will not even be put into effect because local laws prevail. According to village code at the Great Neck Plaza, smoking is permitted on sidewalks along Middle Neck Road, including the area in front of Starbucks.

The rationale for smoking bans is based on the premise that smoking is optional, whereas breathing is not. Therefore, proponents say, smoking bans exist to protect breathing people from the effects of second-hand smoke, which include an increased risk of heart disease, cancer, emphysema, and other diseases. Research has generated evidence that second-hand smoke does cause the same problems as direct smoking.

A 2007 Gallup poll found that 54% of Americans favored completely smoke-free restaurants, 34% favored completely smoke-free hotel rooms, and 29% favored completely smoke-free bars.

Public sentiment about the ban seems to be split in very predictable ways. Those who do not smoke are for it; those who do feel discriminated against.

Meredith Robinson can’t wait. The non-smoker said the new rule allows her to enjoy the outdoor seating, too. “It makes for a better environment because a lot of people go to Starbucks and drink their coffee, too, especially on a pretty day like this,” said Robinson.

Long-time smoker Charli Dirani believes Starbucks will lose business under the policy by kicking people, like him, to their curb or even farther away. “I think for them to stop that is a conflict between the two,” said Dirani. “Everybody knows coffee and cigarettes go hand-in-hand.”

AdWeek magazine says that “since smoking bans have swept the nation in the last decade, it’s doubtful there will be a huge backlash for the brand. In fact, there’s been an online movement from Starbucks’ consumers calling for the newly revealed policy since at least 2009.”

“We’re pretty optimistic that people will be supportive and at the very least cooperative,” Spokesperson Riley said.

As for customers who continue to smoke on Starbucks property after Saturday? “We are confident that we can resolve any concern amicably,” Riley said.



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Susan L Ruth

Susan L. Ruth is a long-time Washington, DC resident with extensive ties throughout the community.  She is a genealogical researcher and writer, and is an active volunteer in the Northern Virginia competitive swimming community.  Susan previously worked providing life-skills to head injured adults. 

Susan and her husband Kerry currently live in Northern Virginia with their three sons, Ryley, Casey and Jack and their American Bulldog, Leila.


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