Bay Area city revisits restrictive smoking ban
June 11, 2007
BELMONT, Calif. – A small San Francisco Bay area city that ignited a furious debate over the rights of smokers and nonsmokers when it entertained the idea of outlawing tobacco use almost everywhere is set to revisit the issue.
Three months after briefly considering a comprehensive policy allowing people to smoke only inside single family homes, the Belmont City Council is scheduled to decide today whether to go forward with an anti-smoking bill that would be among the toughest in the nation, or a less restrictive ordinance.
Mayor Coralin Feierbach said she thinks the five-member council will adopt the strictest law it can without infringing on the civil liberties of residents.
“Research has shown again and again that anywhere you smoke is pretty damaging. I don’t know what to do with that,” Feierbach said. “It’s not going to be draconian, but it will be something that will help.”
The proposed ban that went before the council in March was modeled on one prepared by a statewide anti-smoking organization funded by California’s tobacco tax, and would have prohibited smoking in all public places, places of employment and multiunit dwellings.
It would cover places where puffing is often regulated, such as shopping malls and parks, and many where it is not, including sidewalks, parking lots, construction sites, farmer’s markets, and apartment buildings.
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An outcry accompanied the council’s earlier discussions, even though the model ban was presented as one of several options. Feierbach said she received threatening e-mails from opponents who accused the city of going too far and discriminating against renters who could not afford to buy homes.
“The feedback we received was divided. There was not a clear mandate,” said Belmont Vice-Mayor Warren Leiberman.
Since then, city officials have held a series of meetings with neighborhood associations, apartment owners, the chamber of commerce and the American Lung Association. In a report submitted to the council Friday, the staff said assigning areas where smokers still could light up with impunity would help the law fly.
“From these meetings, staff concluded that a stricter smoking ordinance would be generally accepted by all stakeholder groups so long as smoking was allowed in some designated outdoor locations throughout the city for business patrons and residents,” the report states.
Another outstanding issue for the council to decide is what role, if any, it wants police to place in enforcing local tobacco laws.
Belmont is located 22 miles south of San Francisco.
Other Bay area cities also are considering clamping down on outdoor smoking.