Starbucks to keep smokers at distance

Starbucks says it will expand its indoor no-smoking policy to outdoor seating areas at its ubiquitous cafes, starting today.

Starbucks customers will soon have to stamp out their cigarettes before approaching the cafes.

The Seattle-based chain says it will start banning smoking within 25 feet of its stores, beginning today.

Starbucks spokeswoman Jaime Lynn Riley says the intent is to expand the indoor no-smoking policy to the outdoor seating areas.

“If there were any concerns, we would hope to resolve it amicably.” Riley said, referring to a customer who might be smoking within the restricted area.

The rule will apply to the 7,000 cafes owned and operated by Starbucks Corp., regardless of whether they have outdoor seating areas.

The policy shouldn’t cause a big difference in many areas that already ban smoking within a certain distance of a business entrance.

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Starbucks has cafes all over the Lowcountry, including some with outdoor seating.

Smoking bans are not uncommon in the Charleston region, but they mostly apply to indoor areas. One notable exception is the perimeter around the Medical University of South Carolina and Roper Hospital on the peninsula, including some city sidewalks.