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City may ban smoking in Palo Alto parks

Original post made on Jul 25, 2008

When Christine Martin visits the Baylands, as she does four or five times a week, she spots something other than the expanses of marsh grasses, the feasting birds or her fellow nature lovers. Martin, an Oregon Avenue resident, spies cigarette butts scattered along the preserve's trails.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 25, 2008, 9:43 AM

Comments (56)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Danny
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2008 at 10:04 am

This is way overdue.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nanny Joe
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 25, 2008 at 10:28 am

They also need to ban the eating of unhealthy food in our parks, as well as reading any kind of material that may be objectionable in our parks. And I have also noticed that many people in our city parks are not dressed to my liking. Also people will have to walk or bike to these parks--no more driving.
Anything else the city can ban??? Sounds like more Nanny Joe Simitian laws


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Posted by Craig
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2008 at 10:32 am

Its not worth printing new pages in the municipal code. We already have bans against letting your dog go off leash except in certain areas, and it does nothing. We have an ordinance that you have to pick up after your dog, and that doesn't seem to help much.
Courteous people will continue to dispose of their cigarette butts in an appropriate place, and the jerks among us will continue to leave them everywhere.
I just hate to see our local government waste time on these largely symbolic ordinances. Isn't littering already illegal?


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Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jul 25, 2008 at 10:40 am

Nanny Joe, unhealthy food, unhealthy reading material, underdressed people, do not affect other people.

Unhealthy smoke DOES affect other people and it should be banned. One person's cigarette smoke doesn't just stay in the person's immediate surroundings. The smoke can be smelled from at least 30 feet away. Everyone else shouldn't have to go home and shower because the smell of smoke has permeated their clothing and hair due to a selfish smoker.

I think smoking should also be banned while driving a car. That can't possibly be safe driving.


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Posted by Nanny Joe
a resident of Stanford
on Jul 25, 2008 at 10:50 am

Paly Alum--you bring up another avenue for banning stuff in PA--besides no smoking in cars there should be no eating in cars, no talking in cars and no listening to radios while driving.
There has to be a middle ground whereby people who are engaged in a LEGAL ACTIVITY, despite how awful others think it is, are allowed some rights.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2008 at 11:01 am

One thing that I appreciate about this area is that even though we have a lot of nanny-staters around, there are also a lot of people, many of whom I might call politically "liberal" who do view increasing government mico-regulation with suspicion. Keep up the good work.


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Posted by Craig
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2008 at 11:02 am

sorry - I mean "micro-regulation"


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Posted by suzie
a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2008 at 11:46 am

I think that Palo Alto should ban smoking outdoors in all of Palo Alto.......it is so funny to see Whole Foods employees smoking outside that holy grail of "healthy" food!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Just Curious
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Would this prohibit smoking compost in Byxbee ParK?


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Posted by alex
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2008 at 1:01 pm

No credible evidence exists that second had smoke has health effects. The first World Health Organization study confirmed this. Of course, it was politically incorrect, so the did another "study", and lo and behold, they changed their minds.

I smoke where I please and criticism is met with anger.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Yezo
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 25, 2008 at 1:07 pm

There is state law that prohibits smoking inside of restaurants and bars. Other regulations prohibit smoking inside of both public and private buildings. Palo Alto has an ordinance which prohibits people from smoking within twenty feet I believe from any retail/commercial business. All makes sense because these locations are or near enclosed areas. Enough regulations already.

At the same time, smoking is a legal and personal choice that people make. If someone is smoking in a widely open public area, I suspect that others are not being subjected to second-hand smoke health concerns. And most of us I assume have never left a park feeling we had to wash smoke odor from our hair, especially from 30 feet away. Maybe from the barbeque smoke pouring out of grills, but never from someone smoking a cigarette, 30 feet away, in a wide open area.

So, in public places like parks, maybe people need to be more tolerant of others. If I'm at a public park or beach, and someone is playing music that isn't overly loud, just not to my taste, I move. I realize the area is to be shared, so I practice some discretion and tolerance. Just relax, and let's pick our spots on what we want to regulate in a legal sense.


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Posted by CP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2008 at 1:08 pm

Alex,

You are one who will not follow a "no smoking" sign. What does that make you? It's not just a health thing, smoke STINKS. How would you like for someone to dump something smelly such as gas on you?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Monet
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2008 at 1:19 pm

CP, yet, if we're talking about public places, where people are free to move around, equating wafting smoke to gasoline is a bit of a stretch. I see your point, but not everyone may think that tobbaco smoke is that intrusive, especially in public places. I agree with an earlier post, if it bothers you, just be more tolerant and move. I think there's enough room for everybody out there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2008 at 2:13 pm

There is ample evidence that trash - used cigarette butts - are left on the ground in public areas - by smokers. This is what the original story said. To twist that into an argument about the legality of smoking is changing the subject. I hate seeing garbage on the ground and this can be traced to - smokers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2008 at 2:16 pm

Nanny Joe--Bravo! Paul--lets ban lightning too, it causes fires that pollute our air more than a cigarette could (parts/million).


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nanny Jose
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 25, 2008 at 2:37 pm

I agree that there should be no eating in cars, no talking in cars and no listening to radios while driving, unless the eating, talking and listening can performed with hands-free devices.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Taylor
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 25, 2008 at 3:03 pm

Alright, Anonymous from Duveneck, we already have littering laws then, so no need to pass new laws related to smokers. For every cigarette butt I see in a park, I see ten times the amount of sandwich wrappers, paper bags, and other debris. If you wish to apply your argument, and it's only about the litter, then let's also pass laws to regulate lunch bags too. C'mon, be reasonable.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Wilson_K
a resident of University South
on Jul 25, 2008 at 3:16 pm

The same people who think it's OK to drive over 25 on Middlefield and Embarcadero, to ride bicycles through stop signs, on the wrong side of the road, or through pedestrian underpasses, the pedestrians who think they have the right to cross downtown streets mid-block or against red lights --- these people are going to try to tell me not to smoke in a park???

Get your own act together, then tell me how to behave.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Danny
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 25, 2008 at 3:56 pm

Obviously the smokers would argue against a ban. But let's face it -- these aren't the brightest bulbs on the chandelier. Everyone knows the adverse health effects smoking cigarettes has. So those of you that still do it are, quite frankly, simply addicted and unable to quit. Maybe a ban would help you help yourself.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 25, 2008 at 3:59 pm

I have no objections to smoking. I have no objections to eating chili. I just don't want to have the byproducts from either forced on me.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Albert_E
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 25, 2008 at 4:04 pm

"these aren't the brightest bulbs on the chandelier"???

History shows otherwise.

Better to be a little dim than totally shorted out.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 25, 2008 at 4:10 pm

I grew up with one of the worst arrogant smokers as a parent. He started when he was 11 and smoked until the day before he died, but did try a couple of times to give up. Because of this, I hate smoking. But, I think that as long as it is legal to buy the stuff and we are happy to take the economic benefits from the tobacco industry as a whole, then we have to allow the addicts somewhere to smoke legally. Otherwise, we should ban the sale of tobacco and make it illegal like other drugs.

As long as someone isn't smoking in the kids' playground area or beside others watching sport, or in an area where there is dry vegetation because of the risk of fire, then I see nothing wrong with allowing a smoker to sit on a park bench in a city park to puff away. If I am sitting there first, it might be good manners for him/her to ask if I mind if they smoke before lighting up, but as long as they are not leaving trash behind, they should be allowed to smoke. After all, who is going to call the police to stop them?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Natalia
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2008 at 4:37 pm

If smokers aren't all that bright, why do I see so many "Obama - 2008" signs on front lawns all over Palo Alto?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A_Clausem
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jul 25, 2008 at 6:07 pm

We just had a fire at the dump -- oh, excuse me, the "landfill".

Tell me that didn't put more toxins into the air than a resident relaxing on a bench with a cigarette.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Smokefree
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 25, 2008 at 6:27 pm

Hey A_Clausem, It probably started when a landfill worker tossed a butt on the green waste pile.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Statwhiz
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 25, 2008 at 6:47 pm

There is no question that smoking is harmful. But, we tolerate a substance that is far more devastating. Alcohol.

# Total number of lives lost each year to alcohol use is 9,439
# One person dies every hour due to alcohol use
# The total number of incidents related to alcohol use is over 920,000
# There are 100 incidents (injuries, crimes, highrisk sex, etc.) every hour due to alcohol use

That's just California.

I don't see those numbers caused by people smoking in parks.

Web link: Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 25, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Taylor, maybe we go to different public places...but seriously for years I have seen SO many ciggie butts semi-ground into the ground...it is nasty. Just put it out then put it in a trash can and we're cool with that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Taylor
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 25, 2008 at 7:25 pm

Anonymous, I agree, many smokers are rude and toss their butts anywhere. However, smokers should not be singled out for their trash tossing indiscretion. The current littering laws are enough. We don't need to target a legal activity over what I suspect is a larger agenda.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 25, 2008 at 8:07 pm

This is such nonsense. Freedom!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Freedom--Use It of Lose It!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2008 at 1:27 am

Supporters cite several reasons to ban smoking in parks:

1) fire danger,

Well .. after the fire at the dump--this becomes, perhaps, the stupidest idea of the lot! Most of the grass fires in California this summer were from lightening. Gonna ban that too?

2) health risks of second-hand smoke,

Again, the idea that second hand smoke can do danger to someone in an area as large as a park is absolutely crazy!

3) promoting a child-friendly environment and

And what does this mean? Would driving a child to the park in an automobile--which could cause their deaths not be something to ban first in the name of being "child-friendly"?

4) even to encourage smokers themselves to kick the habit.

So .. what about other personal habits that the City should become "warden" over--what about obese people. What should the City do to get those people to "kick the habit"? Or couch potatoes?

Palo Alto is quickly becoming a horrible place to live--pretty much like that we used to read about where the Big "C" used to be the form of government.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Too Flammable At Some Parks
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 26, 2008 at 2:09 am

I heard that when people lit up at Shoreline, they got more click from their bic than they expected - mini explosions from the high levels of methane and other flammable gasses offgassing from the turf. Did anyone else hear about this when Shoreline first opened?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Your kidding me right?
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 26, 2008 at 7:58 am

First we ban an old guy from sitting on a milk crate and now smoking in Parks? It is already illegal to litter, why not enforce that law instead of creating a new one? I agree with many of the other respondents that Palo Alto is becoming more of a horrible place to live. We may as well kick out all of the restaurants and make it illegal to drink alcohol in Palo Alto. Or better yet, how about unhealthy steaks or burgers or hot dogs - Lets all go Vegan! We will all be better off....or will we?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michelle
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 26, 2008 at 8:10 am

Smoking is a habit that is prevalent amongst the most marginalized members of our society. It is especially common in communities of color.

The solution to the smoking problem is not to ban the act. That is only treating the symptoms of a deeper illness: the alienation of certain members of our society.

How can we treat this successfully? Certainly not by continuing the war on "the other" - folks who don't look like "us" - for another eight years.

We need to heal the root diseases in our society - to dis-alienate the alienated giving them hope so they won't feel compelled to engage in antisocial activities like smoking.

The best way to do this will be when we all come together to elect Barack Obama as our leader and savior this fall. People coming together in our nation and the world is the only route to the salvation of humanity.

Yes, this sounds like high-flying rhetoric in a thread that deals with smoking. But we need to think anew about the world's problems. Even issues like smoking which seem to pale in comparison to world peace are part of the sickness that pervades our world.

If you want to solve the smoking problem, you must heal hte body of our society. And Barack Obama can do that for us all and for the world.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by alex
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2008 at 9:23 am

It's funny, maybe not so funny, how this country holds fast to its puritanical roots.

Isn't it amazing how the puritanical taboos are now being "supported" by "science". Man, those puritans could really see into the future.

Buck-up Palo Alto and live and let live.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Second Hand Smoke Doesn't Kill--Governments Kill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2008 at 9:45 am


> Smoking is a habit that is prevalent amongst the most
> marginalized members of our society

Marginalized by whom? Are there "crews" running around in "black SUVs" capturing people and forcing them into "the habit"? NO!!!

Smoking is a choice. A bad choice, to be sure, but still a personal choice with a personal consquence.

By the way, tobacco was the "black gold" of the early English colonies. It was not uncommon for people to pay their bills with "hogsheads of tobacco".

Most people (men, anyway) smoked, or consumed "chewing tobacco". People who did not smoke were the "marginalized".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by alex
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2008 at 9:47 am

Another funny thing is most people who complain about smoking drive around town in huge cars.

You can't smoke at Peet's coffee on Middlefield, but you sure can park your car right next to the tables and give everyone a dose of the dreaded smoke. You can even just park and let your engine idle and no one will think twice.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Liberals Are Hypocrites
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2008 at 9:58 am

> You can't smoke at Peet's coffee on Middlefield, but you sure
> can park your car right next to the tables and give everyone
> a dose of the dreaded smoke.

Right you are! And the bumper stickers that are on some of these cars--so many liberal causes, yet they won't park that cars in parking lot, away from those trying to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.

Anyone who is supportive of banning smoking the park (and probably people's own homes too) should be expected to stop driving their cars in Palo Alto. It's only a matter of time before the City Council gets around to trying to ban cars, anyway. (In the early 1960s the City Council actually banned trucks from most of Palo Alto. The truckers, whose jobs became difficult to carry out in Palo Alto, responded by voluntarily choosing to NOT drive ANYWHERE in Palo Alto.
The boycott lasted about two weeks, when it became clear that the City Council had no power to force trucks to deliver cargo into the City--so the ban was rescinded.

It won't be long, particularly with people like Peter Drekmeier (whose name adorns many socialist and communist web-sites around cyberspace) to make proposals to restrict people from using automobiles.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by alex
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2008 at 10:16 am

Liberals Are,

Yeah, We have to wake up and realize that the real terrorists are the main-stream-media and the health care industry. They play us like a fiddle.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 26, 2008 at 10:19 am

Liberals are Hypocrites is a troll who also posted on the Keeping Outsiders Out of PAUSD thread, under the name, My Eye On You, which she posted on just before this. I recognize the writing style and its provocative style and the way she always digresses off the topic. She is a very angry person and not worth our time.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by alex
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2008 at 10:29 am

Hmm,

Just take the comment at face value, it is what it is. Ignore the side of insults and eat the main course.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Barclay
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2008 at 10:50 am

What, no scandals or investigations in Palo Alto today? How boring. Bring back the melodrama, please!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 26, 2008 at 1:39 pm

And what about the Michelle Obama troll, someone trolling about all these threads bringing up politics again and again.

The trolls are everywhere.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by alex
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 26, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Resident,

And then you gotta watch out for those that cry troll when unwarranted, the anti-trolls.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by no more rules
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 26, 2008 at 9:05 pm

These laws are just more Council "pet projects" under the guise of healthy families or kids.

The kids are better off in the park where there is adequate air versus the air they breathe when they and their smoking parent go back home in an enclosed house. This proposed law is ridiculous and Judy Kleinberg is just looking for 15 more minutes of fame to keep her name alive.

We certainly don't need to hire cops to catch litterers when someone gets shot right outside the police station is still on the loose. There are bigger fish to fry.

Smokers smell disgusting, just so those of you that smoke know that. But it's their perogative. Maybe the cigarette companies and fast food places should have to employ people to pick-up butts and fast food trash if their product is sold in that community. They are making millions of $ on the slouches that litter and local govt picks-up the tab for litter clean-up.

No more rules!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ridiculous
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2008 at 6:16 am

If ever there was a law looking for a problem. I visit our parks daily and except for City maintenance workers I never see anyone smoking.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 27, 2008 at 9:46 am

local politicians looking for 15 more minutes of fame - you may have something here. I would be much more impressed by the politician who manages to fix our streets than the one who casts about for creative silly proposals.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by KT
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2008 at 4:26 pm

I think that Michelle is crazy!!! Barack Obama is a former SMOKER, although he might support quitting I am sure that he would agree that people have the right to smoke. Smoking cigarettes causes cancer, possibly a way to control the population, perhaps. If smoking is shown to be that detremental to all of those in the world, don't you think that the cigarette companies would be forced to shut down?? Those companies have the government officials pockets overflowing with money that it will never ever happen!!!!!

Anyway, littering is against the law, so leaving a cigarette butt on the ground is littering....and that is that. If you ban smoking in a public park, what is next?? As long as smoking is legal, smoking in public should remain legal as well!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 27, 2008 at 5:08 pm

To the extent that my opinion on the Parks and Recreation Commission affects where this matter goes, I can assure those reading these posts that the 2008 Presidential campaign will have nothing whatsoever to do with the judgments I make about this question.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Glad I Left
a resident of another community
on Jul 27, 2008 at 5:54 pm

what a bunch of weaklings - must be the Whole Foods diet

can't stand a little smoke? or maybe it just offends you that someone hasn't gotten with the "just say no" to cigarettes program?

either way, maybe y'all should just be a little more tolerant of others' choices before sicking Nanny Joe laws on them.

by the way, I'm typing this while driving but have my hands free cell phone device in my ear - yeah, baby!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 27, 2008 at 6:35 pm

Obama is not a former smoker, he still smokes and has tried a couple of times to quit, without luck.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by KT
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 27, 2008 at 9:38 pm

The last I read he had quit smoking for good...so it is news to me that he started smoking again. The way things are going on this forum, I doubt that people will vote for a smoker!! At any rate, a ban on smoking in public parks is an infringement on peoples rights. Why don't we make a counter proposal people who are nonsmokers and don't own a dog are not allowed in public parks????


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Us too
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jul 27, 2008 at 10:00 pm

Glad, thanks for checking in. We're glad you left too.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Karen Amon
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 28, 2008 at 2:25 pm

This comment is from my kids, "I wish they'd ban smoking at parks. It smells so gross!"

All four maternal figures I have in my life battled smoking and all quit...empower others to stop and not start. There are hundreds of reasons to support this ban. Smoking is a drug and unhealthy for all. Be smart. STOP Smoking.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 28, 2008 at 2:52 pm

The problem with a ban is that it has to be policed and we really don't need smoking police around our parks. We have a ban on offleash dogs and that is ignored so a smoking ban would probably be treated the same.

What should really be done is get official signs put up at our parks telling smokers that they should be considerate to others and only smoke where there are no kids playing, no sport is being played, no spectators are watching sports, where the vegetation is bone dry and only where there is suitable trash facilities.

Asking people to be responsible, even quoting city ordnances, is much better than alienating what are otherwise upright community citizens who are just addicted to something that is actually legal to do.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 29, 2008 at 6:08 am

> The problem with a ban is that it has to be policed and
> we really don't need smoking police around our parks

Enforcement will be a problem. Unless someone reports the violation to a police officer, who then is able to see the violation, the perp will walk. If this is to be enforced, it will require a large number of police (perhaps undercover cops) to be assigned to the parks.

The Council could, perhaps, authorize every citizen to be a part of the "enforcement" of this proposal by paying a $1,000 "bounty" by allowing members of the public to write the citations.

Having half the population spying on the other half will reduce the need for police, and increase the effect of the social controls that the people pushing this proposal are interested in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by liberalsarebraindead
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 10, 2008 at 10:13 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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