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Smoking ban spreads to Palo Alto business districts

Original post made on Jun 18, 2014

From local parks and nature preserves to business districts, shopping centers and outdoor dining tables, Palo Alto's smoking ban is quickly spreading.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 10:59 PM

Comments (28)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 7:51 am

I think the ban is getting much too confusing. It would be a better idea now to have "smoking place" signs and people are only allowed to smoke in designated places.

I don't smoke and never have smoked, I don't like breathing second hand smoke, and I don't want people smoking around me although I know they have to have somewhere they can legally light up. Having designated smoking places which are well signed would let me know where I would feel uncomfortable going and of course these should be well out of the way with adequate trash cans too.

Posted by Show-Me-The-Numbers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 8:55 am

[Portion removed.] The original studies about this concern were based on very contrived situations that involved people living in small apartments being exposed to tobacco smoke for a long time.

What studies can anyone produce that shows that people exposed to second hand smoke at 100 feet, or more, are likely to contract cancer as the smokers themselves?

This is junk science .. and no one on the City Council is qualified to talk about the effects of second hand smoke on the general public's health.

This constant restraint on people's rights, and their activities, is a signature of Palo Alto that is growing increasingly ugly!

Posted by JP
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2014 at 9:42 am

I'm all for it!! Breathing in smoke from one corner to the next is not pleasant.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 10:16 am

Second hand smoke is also a problem for asthmatics. The inconvenience of finding a spot to smoke with others who do is just an inconvenience. Being able to draw breath is a right.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 10:23 am

A Weekly reporter walks up to a Texan, a Californian, and a New Yorker hanging around University Ave and says, "Excuse me, can I please have your opinion on the new smoking ban in Palo Alto?"

The Texan replies, "What's a 'ban'?"

The Californian replies, "What's 'smoking'?"

The New Yorker replies, "What's 'excuse me'?"

Posted by ProtectChuldrenFrimSmoking
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 18, 2014 at 10:40 am

Klein, why should a home owners association have the right to endanger my families health and lives with smoking in a condominium? Not allowing my family to live in our home without the danger of second-hand smoke violates our rights as afforded by the California Constitution as interpreted by some cities already. The city should protect all residents. How many city council members live in a rental unit or condominium?

I doubt the council wants to protect people only in public areas but this inaction to follow ordinances of neighboring cities suggests they don't seem interested in protecting families in their homes.

Posted by DAVID
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2014 at 10:41 am

I don't smoke, and don't like smoking, but feel this goes way too far. Those who smoke need places to do so, and making the outdoors of an entire district closed to any smoking is just not fair.

Posted by Marianne
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:02 am

Don't pass the law unless you can enforce the ones that are already in place.
The police refuse to enforce the current non-smoking laws when called on, so what's the point of more laws?

Posted by Doctor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:22 am

I STRONGLY support the widest ban. Smoking (and vapor devices) should be banned in all business/public areas. Let's partner with the American Lung Association and have Palo Alto become a national leader in this effort. This is an issue worth watching when deciding whom to vote for in the next elections.

Posted by TimH
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2014 at 11:56 am

This is good. Whether or not second-hand smoke is indeed harmful (based on the sponsorship of each 'study'), smoking is obviously not a benefit for public places. The ban for indoor areas was a boon to offices all over the state, as it pushed unproductive smoke out of the workplace. I don't mind for smokers to take a break to support their habit, as it's still legal for adults to smoke. However, I do mind being subjected to this habit and see this is a major lack of consideration and respect for others who wish to live a smoke-free life. Even smokers I know admit that it stinks and most wish they could quit. I don't know why smokers become so indignant over their civil rights on this topic when it's clear that they are pushing their preference over the rights of others when they bring the smoke!

Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Jun 18, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Don't forget the people who smoke just outside the doors at the Stanford Hospital and behind the garage at PAMF. How about a little spot well away from the buildings were they can also deposit their cigarette butts -- instead of littering here and there.

Posted by Nurse
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 18, 2014 at 1:57 pm

I support it too! Second hand smoke caused the death of my grandmother, who worked in an accounting office with a couple of smokers. She developed lung cancer from it.

You can also develop other smokers' symptoms from exposure to second hand smoke, they can be permanent or temporary, depending on exposure, but they include: dulled sense of smell, dulled sense of taste, more frequent colds, more intense allergy symptoms, acute asthma attacks, COPD, etc.

Posted by TT
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2014 at 5:27 pm

It is legal to smoke. American tobacco companies have made sure that people become addicted to cigrettes, and make billions of dollars a year from these folks. Many of those who smoke would choose to quit, but due to their mental or physical make up cannot. I do not smoke though I did 30 years ago. I feel we should do what they do in London and have areas where folks can smoke, with ashtrays etc. We have handicap ramps, handicap toilets etc, so why not help these folks too?. I too, feel we are being pushed into intolerance, and are happy to let the City decide our rights. I do not need a "big brother" in my life. If I see or smell smoke I cross the road or move on, I DO have legs and a brain! Come on Palo Alto, there are bigger things out there.

Posted by This is a no-brainer
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 18, 2014 at 6:14 pm

Why should we enable smokers? There are a variety of solutions and drugs for helping them quit. Because smoke affects the health of others, intolerance is acceptable. Although one could argue that alcohol should be banned because DUIs affect the public too - when pigs fly, however. I was in the Giants Dugout and someone was smoking outside the door - all the smoke flew inside the store, so it was like I was right next to the smoker although I was at the back of the store.

Posted by Unpleasantness
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Other people's smoke can be unpleasant, whether it's from fireplaces, BBQ's, vehicles, leaf blowers, or tobacco. There is no data, though, to support the belief that occasional, brief exposure to any of these will cause cancer or any other impairment, except for people who have lung disease from another cause. So let's call this what it really is: trying to outlaw unpleasantness.
While we're at it, I think the Council might work on some other annoyances. Some of these are dangerous, most cause stress, and many have already been legislated. In no particular order:
** speeding on Embarcadero, Middlefield, and Alma.
** left-turning red light runners.
** hedges hindering visibility at corners.
** greenery and parked cars impinging on sidewalks.
** un-signaled crosswalks on El Camino.
** gasoline-powered leaf blowers.
** electric leaf blowers.
** water-thirsty landscaping, such as lawns.
** over-loud emergency sirens.
** over-bright LED street lights.
** over-large commercial signs.
** dog owners who don't pick up the poop.
** people talking too loudly on cell phones in public places.
** use of hand-held cell phones while driving.
** grade crossings at E. Meadow, Charleston, Churchill, and Alma.
** the cloud of dust caused by waterless street sweepers.
** pollen and debris from eucalyptus trees, which are non-native.
** teenagers, motorcycles, crows and geese, airplanes, fireworks shows.

Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2014 at 9:54 pm

@ Unpleasantness,

Ah, the first leg of the Four Dog Defense pioneered by the tobacco industry to sew seeds of doubt about the danger of its products. You do it credit.

Here's a great link explaining it:
Web Link

Posted by Michael J. McFadden
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 12:17 am

"We prefer that you use your real name..." but I see 16 out of 16 posters have refused (a last initial hardly counts as standing behind what you write.)

The lack of knowledge of science in the various statements by the councilors, advocates, and posters is sad. There has never yet been a study showing ANY degree of harm to people's health from the levels and durations of smoke that would normally be encountered outdoors or even in any well-ventilated indoor area. The EPA Report, usually considered by Antismokers to be the "Gold Standard" on which to base their claims, actually claims simply that a lifetime of daily exposure in the poorly ventilated and extremely smoky workplaces of the 1940s through 1980s increases the base lifetime risk of lung cancer in nonsmokers by 19% -- from the base of four in one thousand. With a forty year working lifetime for that figure, and the increase of one cancer in every thousand workers, that's one extra cancer for every 40,000 worker-years of such concentrated, daily, 8-hours exposures.

And people are talking about risks from OUTDOOR wisps of smoke? Do you have any idea just how crazy that actually is? It's sort of like worrying about getting skin cancer from moonlight.

If anyone disagrees with my statement about the lack of actual scientific evidence showing real harms from inter-apartment or outdoor wisps of smoke, please feel free to post the appropriate studies here for everyone to see. NOTE: I said "studies" that show such harm: *NOT* generalized conclusions from reports, or "factsheets" from advocacy groups, or statements on web-pages: studies.

Meanwhile, I also invite any specific, substantive attacks on "The Lies Behind The Smoking Bans" that you're welcome to read at Web Link I promise I won't mind, and I'll try to stop back to respond.

Michael J. McFadden
Author of "Dissecting Antismokers' Brains"

Posted by Unpleasantness
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2014 at 6:16 am

@ A Parent: Thank you for the informative reference about legal strategy and trichloroethylene. Four dogs were used decades ago to argue that cigarettes were safe. Clearly a ruse. But that's not the subject now. Incidental second-hand smoke is discussed, with meaningful data, here:
Web Link
Anti-tobacco advocates understandably use the "no dog" argument (some dogs bite, therefore no dogs should be allowed) and use data manipulation to make weak arguments sound compelling.

Posted by Yeah
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 19, 2014 at 9:16 am

I'm all for it! If I walk downtown 5 blocks I'm inhaling smoke from 5 different people on each corner.

Posted by Debbie
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 19, 2014 at 1:09 pm

I agree with David and "unpleasantness". Have never smoked but feel we are going too far to criminalize one's behavior-especially without the CLEAR evidence that inhaling a passing whiff of smoke is so very harmful. Why not ban over eating? That surely kills plus if I see someone scarfing up something tasty, I want to as well. Shouldn't I be protected from that too? And what about alcohol? Certainly there's lots of data to support criminalizing that. I am bothered more and more with criminalizing basically victimless behavior , especially when there are more sensible approaches. I also bothered also with the suggestion to ban e-cigarettes, there isn't 2nd hand smoke, give smokers a break!
I believe though that there's something more devious occurring here. The people who will be caught up in the Palo Alto dragnet are the ones without a place to smoke, the homeless, who yet again will suffer from fines they can not pay. Look any day at the police blotter, half the charges are against them as it is now. This is just another ploy.

Posted by Frank
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Just curious, how Palo Alto can ban smoking at Stanford Shopping Center? This is Stanford University property leased to Simon Properties in 2003 for 51 years.

Posted by just thinkin'
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2014 at 1:39 pm

I like the idea of the city providing bbq's in parks that you can't smoke next to while burning a hunk of cow beyond recognition. Oh, and there's the neighbor who gasses the surrounding blocks and doesn't even suggest a pot luck for penance.

Posted by Michael J. McFadden
a resident of another community
on Jun 20, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Just Thinkin, I wonder if the residents of Palo Alto have any fast food joints in the area where smoking is being banned? Take a look at this ten second video clip I took of a Burger King near Philadelphia:

Web Link

{Click the American flag near center top for the video, then read further to see how BBQing is now thought to be a major component of Los Angeles's smog.}


Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2014 at 7:52 pm

To Frank:

The Stanford Shopping Center is indeed IN Palo Alto and was was so annexed back in, I think, the late 60's or early 70's. Stanford owns the land as a landowner, but the shopping center and the hospital are IN the city limits of Palo Alto and is leased to a shopping center management corporation.

Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2014 at 8:00 pm

I was fuzzy on the message to Frank. Stanford U. technically owns the hospital, but the hospital is said to be a separate management entity from the University itself. If those who know, please educate us that aren't so well informed. I do remember that one of the reasons to annex the land was to provide the hospital and shopping center with Palo Alto police protection - unlike the campus itself which is under the jurisdiction of the county sheriff. I am sure there will be others who know in detail. Gennady or Sue Drennan to the rescue!!

Posted by Member
a resident of Addison School
on Dec 2, 2014 at 11:23 am

I am so thankful for this ban. The downtown area keeps growing and I have seen a huge increase in smokers. As someone that lives close to the business district, it is unbearable to be exposed to the second hand smoke ALL DAY LONG! The workers constantly take smoke breaks outside and the smoke travels into my home and my children's' rooms. They also loiter on the tree lawns in front of our home, leaving cigarette butts and causing us to constantly close our windows. They have even gone so far as to use my backyard picnic area as a relaxing smoke break area!!! I have kindly asked them to move on several occasions and they are back the next day. It is their right to choose to smoke, but it is not their right to force me and my family to breathe the polluted toxic air they create. Thank you to all who have contributed to make this ban possible.

Posted by Leslie
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 2, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I'm so happy to hear that the city council is going to initiate this ban. I also hope that they will pass the ban for condominiums as well. Condominium units share the air with each other and you breath what your neighbors are having for dinner, the chemicals they use to clean their units, anything they are smoking, and any other smells that goes through the air. It's horrible and very unhealthy. Mr. Klein is wrong in that HOA's can ask people to not smoke in their units, however if someone wants to fight it in court they can. If the city bans it then it would not win in court.

Posted by MS
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 29, 2015 at 2:34 pm

Why are you not banning non-EV cars for the exhaust emissions? As a previous poster said, at least have a couple designated places; or if you don't then at least stop lumping in vapor devices which have none of the offensive smell and burnt chemical issues.

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