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Palo Alto looks to ban smoking at all small parks

Original post made on Mar 20, 2013

More than half of Palo Alto parks would become smoke-free zones under a law change that a City Council committee abruptly proposed Tuesday night.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 19, 2013, 8:01 PM

Comments (39)

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Posted by Opportunity
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 12:46 am

Wow - does this mean you are going to finally reinstate all the Police Dept.
officers that we've lost over the last two (even 10!) years to police all this??
That would make it worth it.


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Posted by Claudia
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 20, 2013 at 2:31 am

This truly is laughable!

The Palo Alto police hardly wants to respond to our calls regarding smoking immediately outside of our cafes on University Avenue. And when they do show up, they refuse to give repeat violators tickets. It is truly an uphill battle with smokers, and we have all but given up calling the Police anymore.

What is the point of passing laws when they are not going to be enforced?! Stop wasting your time, and spend your time on the enforcement of the current laws with the Police Department.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2013 at 7:04 am

Nice thought, but without enforcement, it's just another "for show" exercise. Everyone knows the police doesn't have the staffing to enforce this law among many others.


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Posted by Paul Losch
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 20, 2013 at 7:59 am

Paul Losch is a registered user.

The Parks and Recreation Commission (from which I stepped down after 9 years last month) is there for a reason. If this smoking ban idea is important to the Policy and Services Committee, it needs to be fleshed out more fully. Engage your Commissioners, Honorable City Council Members, in the areas where they have the knowledge base and the time to provide you and City Council as a whole a well developed point of view and recommendation.


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Posted by Sky
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2013 at 8:58 am

To say that the 49,000 secondhand smoke deaths argument is "compelling" does not reflect reality since those deaths were generally due to decades of continuously living or working with smokers indoors, not visiting a park. More compelling is the absence of relevant evidence by those who attack our freedoms.


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Posted by addiction
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 20, 2013 at 9:14 am

Are cigarette addicts so addicted that they have to smoke everywhere? Why not just smoke in your own home?


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 20, 2013 at 9:18 am

> To say that the 49,000 secondhand smoke
> deaths argument is "compelling" does not reflect reality

This 40+K deaths is actually an "estimate"—which comes from some reach up in UCSF. This sort of research is always done with statistical extrapolation, and rarely follows up with extensive field work to verify the predictions.

Studies that deal with Secondhand Smoke generally focus on people living in closed areas for long periods of time. The idea being proposed by the City Council that someone can develop cancer because another person is smoking fifty yards away has no scientific basis.

Last week the newly-minted Council banned plastic bags in supermarkets. This week, they are going after smoking in small parks, with the promise that "we'll be baack" for the large parks later. It's hard to believe that within a year or so, they won't try to ban smoking in people's own homes.

As I non-smoker and not much of a "park-goer" this ordinance doesn't affect me much. However, as a Palo Alto resident, I really wish that the Council would spend its time looking at problems that are real—and not simply the personal "demons" of one, or more, of the Council Members.


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Posted by addiction
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:01 am

My family visits our city parks a lot, especially on weekends. Most parks are small and often crowded. You are not 50 yards away from the smokers. Even if you keep moving away from them, it is really hard to keep 10 yards away.

How about a compromise. No smoking near picnic tables. No smoking near restrooms or other buildings. No smoking near children's play areas. No smoking anywhere on weekends.


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Posted by addiction
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:02 am

In the previous comment, "near" could mean the "50 yard" number given by Wayne Martin.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:03 am

I've witnessed this being a health issue at local parks. I've seen moms leave because they couldn't be around much smoke, due to breathing problems, no did they want their kids exposed. It's incredibly inconsiderate of smokers to smoke in parks, knOwing that people are there for recreational reasons, & often w/children. What kind of idiot doesn't curb their behavior in a public place? An idiot who shouldn't be there for that very reason. If I can keep my dogs behaved & on leash in a recreational area, smokers can leash their addiction & indulge where it won't harm others.


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Posted by long time resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:08 am

I'd like to see a ban on alcoholic beverages, too.
More obnoxious behavior occurs with rowdy people who have had a few.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:10 am

"... those who attack our freedoms."

How about our right to freedom from smokers' noxious exhaust gases?

I've never understood why smokers pay all that money for their tobacco, then set fire to it and throw away the smoke after one puff. Here's an easy solution that should satisfy everyone: if you must smoke, wear a space helmet. You'll get the full benefit of your nicotine and tars, save money, and nobody will complain.


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Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:11 am

Go for it, PA Council! This is a proactive ban that is not only needed, but planning ahead for the eventual broad legalization of marijuana smoking in public (believe it, this will happen) and that will open up a larger argument from smokers over their inferred rights to pollute the open sky with personally-propelled exhaust fumes. Everyone should understand that smoking is a terribly addictive habit that can become a passionate issue for some. However, it is a completely voluntary action that, if left in public places (indoor or outdoor), transforms into an involuntary victimization of basically everyone in a smoker's vicinity. If smokers wish to take progressive action, there is a public referendum process available. In other words, the city council is on the right path this time.


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Posted by New in Town
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:25 am

I am a parent who frequents many parks with my kids and have never felt bothered or threatened by smoke. The hazards of dog poop is a whole other story...especially around schools. How about enforcing that one first?


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:27 am

You could also call this policy: Palo Alto invites Smokers to Large Parks, or how bad government policy leads to all sorts of unintended consequences. If you are going to ban smoking in parks, just do it everywhere and be done with it.


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Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm

While they are at it; why not ensure that no city/county employee smokes in their taxpayer provided vehicle or while on taxpayer provided time? What; too much? How much is too much? Of course they don't want to pass laws which govern themselves; just the rest of us. I do not smoke, btw.


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Posted by Guarding-the-Public-Health
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2013 at 12:49 pm

> why not ensure that no city/county employee smokes
> in their taxpayer provided vehicle

Seems to me that the City did impose this policy several years ago. Anyone actually see City employees smoking in City vehicles?


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Posted by What about alcohol?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2013 at 1:06 pm

It is already illegal to drink alcohol on public playgrounds in Palo Alto, yet people do it anyway, on front of small children. Some parents even permit their toddlers to sip their wine at the playground. Yet the police never enforce it, they do not even show up when called to the scene.

Last weekend, the smell of marijuana was present at Rinconada Park. No one seemed to mind or call the police.

How can we expect the police to enforce the smoking ban? When asked, the PAPD response to why they do not enforce the alcohol ban was that they are 12 officers short.


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Posted by Sensibility
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2013 at 1:17 pm

Please, get more signage to this effect in the parks.
Even the vast numbers of non-taxpayers who use our parks on the weekends *tend* to abide if given proper direction.
Case in point:
•amplified sound
•generators
•private bbq systems
People now regularly bring DJs and bouncy houses to the kids play area at Greer Park, driving out any public users not part of the party, and upsetting nearby homeowners.
All three actions are in violation of city codes.
Yet, I've talked to PAPD officers unfamiliar with codes who pull up to the scene and find no violations..."It's not posted," they say.

Posting trumps Policing.


[Now if we could just get the self-righteous dog owners to follow the park-wide leash rules.]


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 1:20 pm

Though Palo Alto is clearly not as big geographically or populated as San Diego --- take note that San Diego prohibits smoking and alcohol consumption at almost all city parks and city beaches.


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Posted by Guarding-the-Public-Health
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm

> San Diego bans ..

So .. Palo Alto is supposed to do what San Diego does?

There are thousands of cities/towns in the US. Are we supposed to be just like every one of them?

Should we also run our finances like San Diego runs its finances?


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 20, 2013 at 2:48 pm

THIS is a priority?

How about fixing the Town & Country traffic mess?

How about fixing the traffic light timing at Middlefield and Embarcero so I'm not dealing with all those noxious exhaust fumes from the traffic backups?

How about responding the letters about getting our Enron refunds?


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Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Another stupid idea being considered by the CIty Council. The parks are OUTSIDE IN THE AIR AND THE SMOKE RISES. I don't smoke and don't support smoking but this is really more Obama Nannystate trying to force people not to smoke by banning outside smoking.
If the Council wants to do something,
- Stop new businesses and building donwtown. There is not enough parking for people that use downtown
- Make downown safer so people are not robbed at gunpoint downtown
- Do something about city employee pensions that are bankrupting the city and keeping the city from hiring more police to make donwtown safer.
This ciyt council and some nutty residents are making the place seem like another Berkeley CA, and that is not good.


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Posted by Retired Staffer
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm

If the wind was blowing in the right direction, I used to get a nice buzz from the cloud that hangs over Lytton Plaza. I thought it was a free service from the Community Services Department.


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Posted by j99
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 3:27 pm

From the earlier note does this person named Claudia actually call the police when she sees someone smoking. And people are being robbed downtown and some idiot wastes the police officers time calling them about someone smoking? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 20, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Oddly I'm still permitted to burn 1000 pounds of gasoline every year anywhere in this City.


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Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 20, 2013 at 3:33 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 20, 2013 at 3:33 pm

I propose that the City issue vouchers for free cigarettes while encouraging smokers to smoke more. Increased mortality may eventuate in an evolutionary elimination of the smoker gene.

In the meantime, ban public smoking. Posted notices will help citizens who ask smokers to cease and desist. Citizens could take pictures of recalcitrant smokers and display them in an online Darwin Failures website.

Lastly, don't patronize establishments whose employees hang about smoking and generally looking stupidly paranoid about their foul behavior.


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm

This is the typical feel good project that our council loves to tackle, while ignoring our real problems. Without any real knowledge about second hand smoke and without saying how many complaints exist, we have council members shouting out which parks to add to the ban!!
Of course we have the weekly writer picking out the best quips to include in the story, so as to fulfill its roll as council cheerleader.
Regarding kiss comment about public health, can we next expect a ban on large sugared drinks, since kiss obviously knows best what is good for all of us.
Look how a few well spent dollars can get you back n the council


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Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 20, 2013 at 7:05 pm

We already have an ordinance in place that you are not allowed to smoke in parks if you are in or near, children's play areas, picnic and bbq areas or bleachers.


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Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2013 at 7:47 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 20, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I can see the council per- meeting:

Larry: shall we adress infrastructure issues today
Kniss: no the unwashed masses need our guidance on the pressing issue of smoking in the city parks. We may have gotten a complaint about it
Price: I will agree only if my park of choice is included
Holman: but cigarettes are old, that means they are historic. Can we ban them?
Scharf: does my hair look good , in case the weekly takes pictures tonight
Schmid: then it's agreed we will put off infrastructure issues and deal with non- problem


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Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2013 at 8:18 pm

Occasionally the smoke is annoying. But, I have to say that the problem with aggressive dogs off leash is 100 times worse. If they can't police the dogs, who is going to police smokers?


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Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2013 at 9:39 am

I commend the Parks and Rec Comission for taking this step. It is long over due. I am truely disappointed that the Comission is not proposing a ban in all the parks and open space areas. Why the baby steps? Go big or go home.


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Posted by anecdote annie
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 21, 2013 at 6:55 pm

If they cannot control alcohol in the parks where there are signs prohibiting it, how are signs going to help control smoking in the parks?


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Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Just add this to the list of laws on the books that won't be enforced. Oh, it might be for a couple months, but then it'll fall by the wayside. Go to any park after about 8am and/or any school after 4 and you'll see groups of unleashed dogs. Yet, every park and school has a sign that says dogs must be on a leash.

Let's focus on enforcing the laws that we have before making up more laws just to look busy.


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Posted by Ahem!
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 22, 2013 at 8:46 pm

How about making drinking alcohol on playgrounds a crime? any parents do this when they bring their children to a small park playground after work....they have a wine tasting with friends, and while they aren't paying attention, their kids drink the dregs, Child endangerment at 13-14% alcohol, more if they are making it a cocktail hour. This happens more as they days grow longer, yet no one complains about the effects of alcohol on a toddler's brain cells, they just cite Europe, where the drinking age is fourteen, as an example. SICK!


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Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 23, 2013 at 9:37 am

Another example of symbolism over substance. While ignoring the critical issues our city faces, our local politicians spin their wheels on a feel good gesture that is neither practical or enforceable.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 1, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Since when is the PACC a guardian of our public health? Seems to me this is a small issue getting an inordinate amount of attention while big issues don't get enough attention. I cannot stand cigarette stench but I'd rather have that than an uber-intrusive government. Even Jerry Brown has said that we don't need a law for EVERYTHING.


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