Mountain View Voice

News - January 27, 2012

Council passes smoking ban

Smoking nixed near buildings and outdoor dining areas

by Daniel DeBolt

It just got a lot harder to smoke in Mountain View.

On Tuesday night the City Council narrowly passed a ban on smoking near publicly accessible buildings and outdoor dining areas. Council members voted 4-3, with Laura Macias, John Inks and Tom Means opposed.

The new rules mean a $50 citation for smokers who stand within 25 feet of windows, doors —even cracks and vents in the walls — of workplaces, restaurants and any publicly accessible building where smoking is already banned. The Council also put the kibosh on smoking within 25 feet of outdoor dining areas, including those at restaurants and picnic areas in public parks, where smoking is already banned within 30 feet of a playground.

Smoking is now largely banned in busy commercial areas like Castro Street though exception is given to smokers who "are actively passing from one destination to another," said Kim Castro of the city's community services department.

The vote gave no exceptions to bar owners and patrons who protested the ban, which ends the practice of allowing smoking on outdoor patios near doors and windows, as is the practice at the Sports Page on Shoreline Boulevard.

"My concern is loss of employment for my staff," said Jackie Graham, the owner of Sports Page, which has a large out door patio that allows smoking.

"I deal with an international community. In various parts of the world, smoking is socially acceptable. They expect to smoke and drink in comfort," he said. "The city of Mountain View needs to work with businesses on individual basis. If work is reduced, I may have to lay off people."

Council member Jac Siegel said he had struggled with whether to ban smoking for such establishments, and said it came down to the health of the employees. He said he was sure Graham's seven employees didn't like breathing second-hand smoke.

"They don't have a choice," Siegel said. "They need a job, they are making a decision whether to have a job or to inhale second-hand smoke."

Council member Tom Means, the ban's most vocal opponent, addressed Siegel's remarks by saying "employees do have choices. They get to chose where they work. We ended slavery over a century ago."

Santa Clara County gave the city a $53,788 grant to create an ordinance to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, $14,000 of which will go to new cigarette butt receptacles on Castro Street.

"Tobacco is the number one killer in this country," said Martin Fenstersheib, health officer for Santa Clara County.

He said that businesses eventually see an increase in business when they restrict smoking.

Means turned to Graham and said, "You ran the business for 20 years but (Fenstersheib) knows more about it than you do. You're just not smart enough, I think."

Means made a motion to only approve the portions of the ordinance dealing with public parks and buildings, which council members approved. But then the council also voted to approve the rest of the ordinance.

A handful of smokers spoke in protest, most of whom said the city should have spent the money on anti-smoking education efforts, and said the parking lot behind Castro Street bars would be full of smokers.

"I'm disabled, but I can walk a bit," said one woman. "Now I've got to walk every time (I) want a cigarette. How many people do you think are going to smoke in those car parks? It's going to be a nightmare. Let's put money into education. This is potentially discriminating to me as a disabled smoker."

Foothill college smoking cessation counselor Kathy Hagiwara commended the council for considering the ban, saying that the U.S. Surgeon General finds that there is no safe level of cigarette smoke. "Cigarettes kill people," she said. "Nicotine is an addictive substance as powerful, if not more so, than heroin."

Of her own children, Hagiwara said, "I told them I would prefer them to smoke marijuana than cigarettes."

The ban goes into effect 90 days after the council votes on the ordinance a second time, which is scheduled on Feb. 14.

Email Daniel DeBolt at ddebolt@mv-voice.com

Comments

Posted by Cindy, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jan 27, 2012 at 5:01 am

That is funny. Yesterday I commented on this article and so did about 20 others. Most not agreeing with the City. Does Mt. View Voice just delete comments that don't agree with the City? [Sorry. The original thread is below. Somehow a duplicate thread was started. Ed.]


Posted by Ed, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jan 27, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Did I miss something? The City is banning smoking but is still going to spend $14,000 on cigarette but receptacles on Castro Street? What kind of decision is that?


Posted by Jim Neal, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 4, 2012 at 4:01 pm

It looks like I have the same problem as Ed. I tried to post a well thought out response in opposition to the new smoking ban and it was never published? Why? I will try again with this post. It appears to me that the Mountain View City Council has not fully considered the consequences of the new smoking ban. Instead of reducing exposure to second hand smoke, it will increase it exponentially as smoker's are forced from their isolated and dedicated smoking areas, out into the general public. They will be smoking in the parking lots and on the streets instead of being contained in the patios that allow smoking. It also seems that the council is OK with persecuting a minority as long as that minority is smokers. Smokers can be banned from the streets, restaurants, stores, places of business, even housing all because they engage in an activity that is legal. Even in the worst days of the Civil Rights movement, Blacks had their own separate areas where they could go out to eat, drink, and be entertained. By passing this ban, the Council will be relegating smokers to the rank of second-class citizens. We pay our taxes like everyone else. We are part of the community and yet like the lepers of old, we are told that we are unwanted, undesired, and unwelcome. If this ban passes, where can we go? What can we do? Non-smokers should ask themselves what they would think and how they would feel if they could be banned from every business in Mountain View simply because the Council decided that there was some aspect of their behavior that the Council disagreed with? What if the Council banned all drinkers? Or all people who eat red meat? Or children because they can be loud and annoy others? No matter how noble the reason, discrimination and intolerance cannot be codified into law. Smokers have the same rights as everyone else. There are thousands of businesses and restaurants that cater to non-smokers in Mountain View, why should not smokers not be allowed to have the dozen or less that choose to cater to them? What happened to freedom of choice and fairness? What happened to the Constitution? -- Cowboy Jim Neal


Posted by David, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Feb 6, 2012 at 1:56 pm


I think this is ridiculous. It should be up to the owner to decide whether or not smoking is allowed on their patio. I have lived in Mountain View almost all of my life. I like Mountain View because it is cool and laid back. People are friendly. It has a little bit of a small town vibe. I recently bought a house in Mountain View. One of the things I really enjoy doing is sitting out on the patio with my friends and have a cigar and a few drinks. And now you are taking that away? All so Mountain View can make an extra 50k? That seems ridiculous to me. Why not just raise local taxes on tobacco? Oh.. wait.. you would have to have a vote by the residents on that. Right? This way you can line the town coffers with a measly 50k just by a vote of a small group of people who, somehow, think they have the best interests of their constituents in mind. I can't wait for the next general election. I will work endlessly against the council members that approve this. For taking my freedoms away. Seriously? Really?


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