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.