With the growth of wood-burning restaurants and recreational wood burning, wood smoke is not just a problem in residential areas, but in commercial and recreational places as well.
In many of these public places visitors are no longer allowed to smoke cigarettes, yet smoke-producing fires are permitted that are far more polluting, by orders of magnitude. It doesn’t make sense.
Wood smoke pollution from beach bonfires and fire pits has long been a particular problem in parts of California.
One California community’s city council, Carmel-By-The-Sea, voted to ban wood fires on the city’s beaches in 2022, opting to allow only propane recreational and cooking fires going forward. Said council member Karen Felito at the time, “I think it’s important to make a move forward, as far as humanity goes, to stop burning things. It’s a vital step to the health and safety on our beautiful shoreline.” In a step backwards, the council later voted to continue wood fires for another 6 months.
Public Places Should Be for Everyone
Wood smoke in public places isn’t healthy for anyone, but it also creates accessibility barriers for some people, particularly those with lung or heart conditions. In the US, for example, conditions such as asthma can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and there are precedents with secondhand tobacco smoke being considered a barrier to public access.
Everyone should be able to work, shop and recreate in public spaces without being exposed to unnecessary harm from wood smoke pollution.