Members of San Ramon's City Council were hesitant to accept an update to the city's smoking ordinance Tuesday night. The existing ordinance, written in 1999, could be updated to include outdoor second hand smoke.
The existing tobacco ordinance does not adequately address exposure to second hand smoke, the new ordinance states. While the proposal doesn't eliminate or reduce any of the current regulations, it expands coverage to include second hand smoke from outdoor sources. Should the ordinance pass, smoking would not be allowed in any city park.
"We're trying to protect citizens of San Ramon and address a great problem that is affecting this city," said Aradhna Madireddi , chair of the Teen Council. "We've flipped the ordinance so it states that San Ramon is a smoke free city with exceptions, instead of you can smoke in the city aside from where prohibited."
The crux of the proposed ordinance is contained in Section B6-73A, which prohibits smoking entirely except for certain exemptions, and in Section B6-74, which sets forth the exemptions. Under the new ordinance, smoking is prohibited at all community events open to the public, even if the event is held on a property where smoking is otherwise allowed.
The city has also defined a "reasonable distance" as 25 feet from the entry of a building.
Councilmember Phil O'Loane questioned the science behind secondhand smoke causing a great amount of deaths and took issue with the ordinance's prohibition of smoking within 50 feet of any commercial building in a parking lot. The ordinance was amended to allow smoking within 25 feet of buildings on adjacent properties.
"Idling trucks are causing more issues to public health than occasional whiff of cigarette smoke…we're ignoring fact that there's a bunch of major polluters parked in each of those parking spots," he said. "The minority do have the right to smoke somewhere but they don't have the right to be rude and most of this revolves around rudeness not actually scientifically based proof that outdoor secondhand smoke causes these deaths."
Section B6-74I would allow smoking on golf courses except within 25 feet of any entrance, exit, window or air intake opening of the clubhouse or other buildings. Vice Mayor Dave Hudson said this part of the ordinance would be difficult to enforce as many people smoke on the green or in the clubhouse and have been doing so for years. Although Hudson said he was against the ordinance in the beginning, he was willing to accept it as long as golf courses were exempted from the ban; residents would now be allowed to smoke "on any outdoor area of golf courses."
"We have made great strides and I commend you for trying to make the next stride, but where we should be pushing for this is…black carbon and diesel combustion," he noted.
Several councilmembers were concerned about the enforcement aspect of the ban, which would use an existing law to allow administrators to enforce fines. Interim City Attorney Bob Saxe said the city manager would need to designate code enforcement officers and a hearing officer.
"We want all citizens to be aware of the laws. We see this ordinance as something that is very self-enforced, so they can regulate themselves and others around them so it can be not a big deal with police involved," Aradhna said.
Members of the Teen Council said simple signs would deter people from smoking and Saxe added that administrative code enforcers and fines would only be necessary in the event of a dispute between neighbors, for example. A citation hasn't been issued in the 14 years since the ordinance was introduced, the attorney noted.
"Signs make a lot of sense to me. It is going to be a deterrent and if there's enough people around, but to get a police officer or code enforcement officer out there to do something is not realistic," said Councilmember Jim Livingstone.
Jaime Jenette, policy coordinator with the county's tobacco prevention project, said officials in Dublin (which enacted a similar ban) said the "level of resources used for enforcement was really low."
Several members of the audience spoke in support of the update, including high school student Ellen Perfect, an athlete with asthma.
"I think this ordnance does a good job taking care of people like me. A an athlete I can say that there is probably nothing more detrimental ...than stopping to cough because I ran through a cloud of smoke," she said. "People have the right to a smoke free environment in public places no matter what they do."
San Ramon resident Jose Ramos, who is also chair of board of directors for the American Cancer Society of California and Cancer Action Network, commended the ordinance. The updates are "prudent, reasonable measures that will positively impact our community...and reduce the serious and potentially dangerous effects second hand smoke has."
The Council unanimously approved changes to the ordinance and will hold another public hearing with the possibility of adopting the update on Feb. 26.