News

Palo Alto bans smoking in shopping districts

City Council approves new restrictions but defers proposed ban on e-cigarettes

Palo Alto continued its crusade against cigarette smoke this week by expanding its existing ban to commercial districts, though the City Council also decided that it needs more time to consider whether e-cigarettes should also be covered by the new law.

The new ban, which the City Council unanimously approved early Tuesday, applies to areas zoned "regional commercial," including Stanford Shopping Center, Town & Country Village, downtown and California Avenue. It also includes "neighborhood commercial" sites such as Alma Village.

Smoking will now be prohibited at all publicly owned sidewalks, alleys, parking areas, public places, outdoor dining areas and service areas in these districts.

This week's action is the just the latest step in the council's two-year effort to curb smoking. At prior meetings, staff and council have argued that cigarette smoking is both a health hazard and an environmental issue.

The ordinance states that the new restrictions are intended to "protect the public health, safety and general welfare" and to "ensure a cleaner and more hygienic environment within the city, reduce litter, and protect the City's natural resources, including creeks and streams."

Last year, the council unanimously banned smoking at local parks and open-space preserves, as well as within 25 feet of entrances or exits to enclosed public spaces.

Like prior proposals to impose new smoking restrictions, the Monday decision was reached swiftly and with no dissent. The council generally agreed with Vice Mayor Liz Kniss' position that "banning smoking is self-explanatory."

The only issue of disagreement came over e-cigarettes. While members generally agreed that these devices are harmful, they signaled that they would like to further explore their effects before including them in the ban.

Larry Klein was the only council member to urge including e-cigarettes in the new ordinance.

"I think it's a mistake to exclude e-cigarettes," Klein said. "I think the case is there."

Given the harm nicotine has done in our society, Klein said, the council should "err on the side of excluding" e-cigarettes.

After Klein's suggestion to include e-cigarettes failed, the council unanimously voted to support Councilman Pat Burt's proposal to include all the proposed restrictions except e-cigarettes, which will be considered at a later date. But even as they agreed no to adopt a ban on e-cigarettes at this time, members signaled that it might just be a matter of time before that step is taken.

"The evidence seems to show that there is a dangerous trend of more youths thinking that smoking is cool because of the use of e-cigarettes," Councilman Marc Berman said. "I think it's a dangerous trend."

Related content:

Smoking ban spreads to Palo Alto business districts

City looks to spread smoking ban downtown

Palo Alto eyes smoking ban downtown

Palo Alto looks to ban smoking at all small parks

Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by grandmakk
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2014 at 10:38 am

Now, the question is who is going to enforce this? I am allergic to smoke and my husband is generally irritated by it.

When we try to tell any smoker at Town and Country or the Cal Ave Farmer's Mkt that they need to stop, we are met with a churlish response and he/she continues smoking.

Can we get some enforcement?


1 person likes this
Posted by Enough!
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 17, 2014 at 10:42 am

Great!


Like this comment
Posted by concerned resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 17, 2014 at 11:02 am

We are two blocks from California Ave. Now, all the smokers are going to fill up our street at recess or noon time! What can we do?


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 17, 2014 at 11:19 am

>Now, the question is who is going to enforce this?

Answer: Nobody, if it is complaint based. The PACC loves to pass rules/regs that are complaint based. That is just council speak for dodging the issue at hand. Think gas-powered leaf blowers.

I think subjecting others to second hand smoke (tobacco or pot) is very annoying. On the other hand, I like that there are places like La Bodeguita del Medio on California Ave. should be allowed to keep their own air filtered smoking parlors. I like an occasional cigar with my drinks and my friends in that back room...it has a good feel to it...call it diversity.


1 person likes this
Posted by parent of asthmatics
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2014 at 11:48 am

Expect to get the same response you get from gardeners who use gas-powered blowers (and their Palo Alto clients, who are more to blame).
Also expect there to be the same zero enforcement.

Still, it's a nice statement. Thx Palo Alto city council.


1 person likes this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 17, 2014 at 11:49 am

A recent NY Times article on e-cigs says that heavy metal and other particles in e-cig are just as/more harmful than regular cigarettes. Roughly 90% of these e-cigs are manufactured in China w/o any regulation. Importing these into the USA is irresponsible. Please include e-cigs on the banned list.


1 person likes this
Posted by Surly
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 17, 2014 at 11:50 am

What a waste of police resources. Wait until all the hotel patrons and shoppers from out of town get caught and PA gets a bad rep. Great way to boost retail.

How about doing something about the air pollution from gridlock, something that effects us all??

And by the way, do PA smokers get a tax exemption for deprivation of their rights? Seriously, most smokers are considerate enough to not to smoke in someone's house or when it's bothering someone but this nanny nonsense has got to stop. What's next, banning alcohol, chocolate....?


2 people like this
Posted by Fed up
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 17, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Council should ban those e-cigarettes because they just allow smokers to enjoy their nicotine habit while skirting the smoking ban. I agree with Larry Klein on this one! Let's also look at banning nicotine patches that smokers are using. They say they're using the patches to "quit," but I think they're just trying to mainline the nicotine like it were heroin. Council should ban the e-cigs and the patches!!!


3 people like this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 17, 2014 at 12:49 pm

> Council should ban the e-cigs and the patches!!!

Why stop there, Carrie Nation? Isn't it time to take your axe to alcohol, too? After all, wine is a serious environmental hazard to wildlife, where the vineyards kill off all the deer and other 'pests'. Let's not forget the health effects. Perhaps our PACC will ban all booze sales, too. They could even take the personal pledge to give up their chardonnay in public. What do you think, Fed up?


3 people like this
Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 17, 2014 at 1:04 pm

"What's next, banning alcohol, chocolate....?"

We'll face that if alcohol and chocolate addicts begin puking their effluent over bystanders like smokers do.


Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2014 at 2:05 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 17, 2014 at 2:17 pm

>@Craig Laughton: Next time you feel tempted to compare apples and oranges, stop yourself. Really. Just. Stop. Yourself.

[Portion removed.] I see nicotine patches and alcohol in similar terms, although the patches don't have the same deleterious societal effects. I don't favor banning either of them, but I do detect some moral hypocrisy. Shoe fit?


Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2014 at 2:24 pm

@Craig Laughton: Not even close. Once again, apples and oranges.


2 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm

We should make a distinction between behaviors that harm only oneself vs. behaviors that harm other people.

Tobacco smoke harms the smoker as well as other people in the vicinity. Nicotine patches impact only the wearer and do not harm others in the vicinity. Apparently, the jury is still out on e-cigarettes.

We should expect the government to act on tobacco smoke, take no action on nicotine patches, and study e-cigarettes.

Alcohol, in moderate doses, impacts the drinker but does not impact other people in the vicinity. In higher doses, however, alcohol does impact other people in vicinity, sometimes in violent ways such as fights and accidents.

We should expect the government to allow alcohol consumption but to prevent and punish overuse that can or does lead to harm of other people in the vicinity.

We should expect government to allow personal liberty but to step in when such liberties harm other people. We may disagree as to where the line is drawn.


3 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Dec 17, 2014 at 4:20 pm

If I call the cops when someone is smoking while walking down University Avenue, will they come and investigate?


3 people like this
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 17, 2014 at 4:20 pm

You are going to get more pollutants in your lungs from cooking, or cars, than passing a smoker on the street. And banning e-cigarettes is ludicrous, that's just petty meddling on other people's affairs.


Like this comment
Posted by Stop the Trolls
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 17, 2014 at 4:24 pm

@Mr.Recycle: Stop repeating tobacco industry propaganda, it's been discredited a LONG time ago.


Like this comment
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 17, 2014 at 4:37 pm

The current law prohibits smoking within 25 feet of a building entrance/exit in the downtown commercial district, making it illegal to smoke virtually anywhere near the heart of University today.

The police only very rarely enforce the existing ban so there is no reason to expect them to issue many citations when the ban is expanded.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 17, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I am not and never have been a smoker. I hate smoking, but I don't really think we have a problem with it here in Palo Alto. I agree that this is going too far and it is really only visitors who don't know the rules who may end up breaking them. Are there going to be signs on lamp posts reminding people not to smoke or how else will visitors know?????

With this ban though, the smokers are only going to move to the garages and parking lots, or walk a block until they can stand around smoking. This is not fair to non-smokers who have to share that space.

Rather than making areas non smoking, it is about time to allow the smokers a small part of a park or similar place so that they can smoke in peace. We were staying in a hotel which had a small garden for smokers surrounded by plants and bushes which seemed to tolerate the smoke well and prevented it from reaching the rest of the beer garden. I would like to see more of these areas instead of total bans which get ignored.


2 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 17, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Living downtown, I see and smell many tobacco smokers every day.

A big problem is that a group of co-workers will take their smoke break together and congregate outside their office. Together, they create a large cloud of smoke and block the sidewalk making it impossible to avoid inhaling their smoke.

The same thing happens outside of restaurants. Diners can't smoke indoors so they group together outdoors on the sidewalk. Again, non-smokers waiting for their table get caught in the tobacco cloud, sometimes for a lengthy period.

Additionally, the smoke rises and drifts into the windows of the adjacent building, disturbing even more people.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be solution for tobacco smoke short of a complete ban. Time will tell if secondhand electronic smoke proves safe.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jordan
a resident of University South
on Dec 17, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Enacting complaint based regulations encourages confrontations between individuals. Is that a smart thing for the Palo Alto City Council to do? Of course, that probably won't happen if the ban is rarely enforced. If the ban will be rarely enforced, then why enact it in the first place? It sounds like a waste of legislation and the city council's time.

I am not a smoker, and never have been. In fact, I detest smoking and consider it a crude, filthy, disgusting habit. That being said, even I consider the smoking ban to be quite fascist. Sheesh, Palo Alto is getting uptight.


2 people like this
Posted by Jordan
a resident of University South
on Dec 17, 2014 at 5:52 pm

@Stop the Trolls wrote:

"[Post removed.]"

Lol, Palo Alto Town Square has become square to say the least. And Irony Central.


3 people like this
Posted by Surly
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 18, 2014 at 3:44 pm

First we were told "Don't worry. The smoking ban is just to help get rid of the homeless downtown." But it's been reported elsewhere that there four dedicated smoking enforcement cops. Are they free or do they cost $500,000+ a year?

Now we're targeting shoppers at Stanford. Nanny creep.

What's next? Evicting Mac's Smoke Shop, PA's oldest business?


2 people like this
Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 30, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Chris Zaharias is a registered user.

Today's PA Post (print-only) article on the ban revealed that there was a grand total of one single complaint that led to the ban.

I wonder what the response would be if the city proposed a ban on alcohol, whose downtown consumption causes more direct and indirect harm than smoking by several orders of magnitude?

Yes, smoking's bad, but civil liberties are good.


3 people like this
Posted by One Complaint?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Dec 30, 2014 at 3:47 pm

ONE complaint and we get a 4-cop anti-smoking anti-shopping cart police squad with one supervisory officer??? And that costs how much??

On the plus side, if the downtown tech workers and the restaurant patrons and shoppers want to smoke so much and cause SO much inconvenience, maybe they'll leave and we'll be able to find parking. Maybe all the foreign visitors in our under-parked hotels will go elsewhere.

And what a relief that Cuban cigars will never darken our doorsteps now that they're about to become legal.


3 people like this
Posted by Agenda
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 30, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Well, Chris and one complaint, liz kniss has said that the her and the council are the " guardians of public health" in the city. Which means they can I pose nanny state rules and regulations on everyone. Soon they will be coming into,our homes and checking what we eat, how we exercise etc. we cannot be expected to do what is good for ourselves-- we need kniss and company to show the ignorant masses how to live " properly"
Also note, how quickly they acted on a single complaint. Yet it took years to build the new library. And it will be years before thenew bike bridge over 101 will be built.
They can move quickly on unimportant matters, but the real important stuff takes years


2 people like this
Posted by Ah priorities
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Dec 30, 2014 at 5:29 pm

ONE complaint about smoking and how many complaints and how many YEARS of complaining about the traffic bottlenecks on Arastadero, Embarcadero, El Camino???

Ah, priorities.


1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 31, 2014 at 7:48 am

This is an interesting case study in selfishness and deceit.

The smokers are selfish people with poor character. ( No not all of them, the inconsiderate ones )

Just like Republicans they make all these whiny statements about the nanny state, and cost of enforcement, loosing their freedoms, focus on bigger problems - I am really surprised they don't still try the smoking is not bad for you, though in this case it would be second hand smoke.

This is a microcosm of most issues we have of this sort of obnoxious nuisance that is tolerated because someone takes these ridiculous wild complaints seriously and a minority of rude pushy people with bad habits and a lack of regard for others continue to affect other people negatively.

Be it parties that go on all night, they say complainers are party-poops. People who let their dogs poop all over the place figure complainers don't love animals. What happens when this kind of behavior is not only tolerated by appeased is that everyone starts to do it in every case to get their baby way.

Smoking is annoying. After few months of years of enforcement, people will eventually learn to change their behavior, and then we don't have the problem anymore. Seems like progress to me.


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 31, 2014 at 8:44 am

Not sure what this has to do with party politics. I know just as many democrats who smoke as republicans - even Obama.

Most smokers nowadays are a lot more considerate than they were 20 years ago before some of these rules kicked in. Anyone smoking today realizes that they have a socially unwelcome habit which never used to be the case. It is said that if a person can reach their twenties without smoking it is unlikely they will start. Society today has to get our children to understand that smoking is not cool, is an unhealthy choice and a habit that is hard to kick.


1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 31, 2014 at 9:32 am

>> Not sure what this has to do with party politics.

Not much per se, but just as I clearly stated, one side makes the nanny state complaint and most of the others too to avoid taking personal responsibility ... ain't that just ironic. Happy 2015.


1 person likes this
Posted by Long Time Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 1, 2015 at 3:06 pm

I really don't see many people smoking these days, certainly not enough to have this be an item to be voted on.

What is way more bothersome is the exhaust fumes from idling traffic on Embarcadero near El Camino combined with the smoke & grease from restaurants in Town & Country.

I have lived here for over 55 years, and the air quality was never bad at this location.

Check it out in the late afternoon.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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