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Council considers stricter smoking laws tonight

  • Cigarette butts are scattered on the pavement in front of a tent set up to check for tobacco in people's lungs during World No Tobacco Day Wednesday May 31, 2006, in Copenhagen, Denmark. The WHO's theme for this year's World No Tobacco Day is, "Tobacco: Deadly in any form or disguise." (AP Photo/John McConnico)

A major change to Petaluma's smoking ordinance that includes a ban on smoking in all apartment and condominium complexes, as well as many outdoor and public areas, is set to come before the City Council Monday.

The proposed expansion of the current smoking regulations stems from a 2012 City Council goal to update the law, which hasn't changed since 2009. The ordinance currently prohibits smoking at all city-owned parks, common areas of multi-family residences — such as shared laundry rooms — and requires that all hotels and motels offer at least 50 percent non-smoking rooms.

Under the new ordinance, drafted by Lt. Dave Sears of the Petaluma Police Department, with input from community members, nonprofits and apartment complex managers, smoking would be banned in the following venues: outdoor dining areas, entryways, public events, parking lots for city recreation areas, covered service areas like bus stops and ATMs, sidewalks in business areas and within 20 feet of worksites. In addition, all multi-unit housing would need to become completely smoke-free within one year of adoption of the ordinance.

Hotels and motels in Petaluma would also face tighter smoking restrictions, with all establishments required to offer 80 percent nonsmoking rooms, though Sears said that his research has shown every hotel and motel in the city already complies with such standards.

"This ordinance is looking at secondhand smoke and trying to reduce or limit the exposure for nonsmokers," said Sears.

Modeled after smoking ordinance updates passed in Petaluma's neighboring cities, such as Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Rohnert Park and San Rafael, the new laws would reflect the surgeon general's warning that no safe level of secondhand smoke exposure exists. According to Pam Granger, North Coast tobacco program manager for the American Lung Association, these changes to Petaluma's ordinance would "catch the city up" to its nearby counterparts.

"We met with Lt. Sears back in May and explained to him what the trends in Sonoma County have been for updating these policies," said Granger. "We discussed the importance of (having regulations in) multi-unit housing complexes and public areas. We're very pleased with the ordinance that is moving forward."

Community members have also voiced approval of the new ordinance. In June, Susan Gilbert, a cancer survivor and frequent Petaluma bus rider, expressed displeasure over her exposure to secondhand smoke inside a transit bus shelter along the number 11 route when a fellow rider refused to smoke outside the shelter one rainy afternoon. After Gilbert attended transit meetings and voiced her concerns, the Transit Authority Board began exploring options to ban smoking at bus stops. Transit Manager Joseph Rye said the board found it would be easiest to piggyback on the city's updated smoking ordinance.

"Since the police would be enforcing the new laws, we had them take point on the ordinance changes and are pleased to be added to the list of open areas that would ban smoking," said Rye.

Gilbert said that she is very excited about the changes.


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