E-cigarettes may soon join their traditional brethren in a Palo Alto law that bans smoking in downtown centers, local parks and outdoor dining establishments. They would not, however, be included in a new cigarette ban that the city is considering for apartment buildings.
In the latest addition to the city's rapidly expanding tobacco ordinance, a City Council committee is set to consider on May 12 a proposal to ban indoor smoking at multi-family complex throughout the city. The council suggested this restriction last year but stopped short of adopting it because it wanted staff to do more research and outreach.
Now, the results of the research are in and staff is recommending moving forward with banning indoor smoking at multi-family complexes. In March, the city mailed out more than 8,500 postcards to landlords and tenants at multi-family units, directing them to the online survey. Of the 505 respondents, 96 percent lived in multi-family units and 95 percent were non-smokers. Nine landlords also responded, with five saying that their complexes currently allow smoking and four saying it's prohibited.
The vast majority of the respondents 90 percent said they were in favor of smoking restrictions. From this group, 82 percent supported banning it in all units, 72 percent supported a restriction in indoor common areas and 68 percent said smoking should be banned in outdoor common areas.
The survey also showed 80 percent indicating that smoking inside units bothers them and 64 percent indicating it bothers them "very much."
The results encouraged staff to recommend smoking restrictions in multi-family units, a policy that is already in place in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, San Rafael, Belmont, Richmond and Walnut Creek, according to a new report from Public Works.
The report notes that many of the survey respondents "are concerned about their children being exposed to second-hand smoke or have health concerns that are exacerbated by their neighbors' smoking." Some, however, voiced concerns about restricting smoke inside the apartments and "infringing on property rights."
Staff also recommends including electronic cigarettes, which are currently not subject to any restrictions, in the local ordinance. With studies showing e-cigarettes rising in popularity among high school students and with various other cities (Mountain View, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara among them) recently moving to restrict them, Palo Alto may soon follow suit.
But because e-cigarettes don't release traditional smoke but rather a "smoke-like aerosol," staff does not recommend including them in the new restriction on multi-family units. That's because there is no evidence, according to staff, that vapor moves between units.