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Palo Alto looks to snuff out smoking at parks, plazas

Original post made on May 13, 2013

Smoking would become a forbidden activity at some of Palo Alto's most prominent outdoor spaces under a proposal the City Council is set to consider tonight.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, May 13, 2013, 9:31 AM

Comments (15)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2013 at 9:38 am

I don't think smoking is a big problem in our parks (perhaps some of the downtown plazas, but I don't use them) but gum is. Apart from the fact that gum can get on shoes and then into cars, etc. it is attractive to wildlife as food and is therefore harmfull.

If smoking and plastic bag ban can be banned, then whynot gum?

Overall though, I would rather them take more important concerns such as infrastructure and budget balancing. Oh wait, they have a surplus I just read.


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Posted by Ban-Bad-Law
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2013 at 9:48 am

> 443,000 deaths in the United States are attributable
> to tobacco annually, with 49,000 of these attributed
> to second-hand smoke.

While the number of smoking-related deaths "attributed" to tobacco is probably true, any number "attributed" to second-hand smoke is clearly statistically derived, and very likely more incorrect than not.

Moreover, the City's claim that people can contract cancer from inhaling second hand smoke for a short while in a public park is delusional. While it is true that long exposure to second-hand smoke in closed areas can be detrimental, perhaps even leading to cancer—there has never been any claims that people can contract lung cancer from being exposed to second-hand smoke in open areas, like a park, a beach, or a shopping mall. Except, it would seem, here in Palo Alto.

This is more bad law—thanks to people like Liz Kniss, who has no scientific background, and is inclined to respond to knee-jerk proposals every time one is trotted out.

It's one thing to say that being exposed to other people's smoke in a public place is annoying, or imposing one's habits unfairly on another—but to claim that it is cancer causing is absurd!

Just more misinformation, and gobbledygook from City Hall!


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Posted by resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 13, 2013 at 9:51 am

Smoking is a huge problem for us non-smokers. I am a college student and since it is now legal to smoke, many students try it out despite learning about the horrible consequences in school. Well, my roommate was in this group. Even though he did not smoke in the room, he would come back smelling so badly that I would wake up in the night and have to spend the night in the hall--for an entire semester. We tried a good air purifier, but that only helped a little. I started getting headaches and only when I showed the administration a picture of the purifier filter after a couple months did they move me.
Parks are an excellent place for young children to play, but unfortunately they are even more susceptible to second and third hand smoke. And although smoke dissipates to probably non-harmful levels within minutes, if babies can get sick from third hand smoke in an apartment, then something must be happening when they are around second hand smoke.


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Posted by Chris Zaharias
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2013 at 10:00 am

As someone who smoked for 15 years (until 1.5 years ago, thank you very much), I can speak from both smokers and non-smokers' perspective, and think we should do all we can to keep non-smokers from being near tobacco smoke, though not for the reason typically stated of wanting to prevent harm from 2nd-hand smoke.

In my opinion, the real reasons to keep the one from the other are as follows:

1. This is a habit you don't ever want to start, and the locations mentioned are precisely where youth hang out.

2. Non-smokers are rightly disgusted by the smell of cigarettes. As someone who smoked for years, I always felt bad about reeking near loved-ones, friends and co-workers. It's as impolite as not washing your hands, peeing in public, or not showering for days on end.


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Posted by Smoker
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on May 13, 2013 at 10:12 am

This is tyranny. How about no barbecues in parks? A lot more smoke inhaled.


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Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2013 at 10:15 am

Why are the larger parks and Open Space preserves not included in this proposed ban? Besides the second hand smoke issues, ignition of unwanted fires is a huge reason to ban smoking in the large parks and Open Space Preserves. Why limit this to parks under 5 acres?


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Posted by coooper
a resident of another community
on May 13, 2013 at 10:40 am

Who on the City Council would take up the 'no' side? There will be no balanced debate. I would not want to place any bet on this measure failing.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on May 13, 2013 at 10:57 am

There absolutely should be a ban on cigarettes and cigars at Foothill Park!! During the tinder dry season, I saw three young men smoking at Vista Point and throwing then grinding the butts into the dirt. If one had gone 'down the hill' and caught the parched grass on fire, it would have been hard to stop. I reported this to a ranger at the gate who told me that smoking in the park was allowed, but the ranger wished the city would forbid it. Just do it.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Mountain View
on May 13, 2013 at 11:14 am

My sister and I lived in a home where both parents were smokers, and we survived just fine. Neither one of us are smokers or have any lung related issues from the experience. At school and in our post WW II parks we played on playground equipment that by today's view would seem cruel and barbaric, again we survived just fine. This anti-smoking frenzy is simply another example of intolerance gone to the extreme; a solution in search of a problem. I do not advocate smoking,it is a dirty, filthy habit, but marginalizing those who do and overly restricting where they can only builds resentment and anger and shuts down any attempt at a meaningful discussion. The bigger concern it appears is the rise of the "nanny" state.


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 13, 2013 at 11:40 am

BBQ smoke and exhaust from backup cars are WAY worse. Enough with the nanny state.


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Posted by Broaden Smoking Ban
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm

I'd like to see no smoking with 25 feet of any business entrance, including downtown. I agree with the ban on smoking at Foothills Park.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 13, 2013 at 12:19 pm

I hate smoking. But tell me how in the world is the city going to enforce the ordinance. It's not like we have a surplus of police officers and park rangers available for this.

Obviously no thought has been given to what it will take (or cost) to do this.


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Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Not only do smokers and their exhaust stink but they leave their cigarette butts behind on the ground. Banning smoking in all the parks is a good start.

And just for my own information, how do smokers afford to buy cigarettes? The current price is over six bucks. You gotta be rich to get lung cancer these days.


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Posted by Barron Parker
a resident of Barron Park
on May 13, 2013 at 2:52 pm

That the city council is considering this idiotic Knissy regulation when serious issues like ABAG demands and budget-busting employee benefits are left hanging -- absurd.

This ban is being advocated for health reasons. But smoking in parks is not a health issue, except for the people who are smoking.

The numbers, for the scientifically illiterate on our city council:
* about 500,000 deaths/year due to smoking
* about 50,000 deaths/year due to 2nd hand smoke

Those 50,000, a CDC estimate that is likely correct, are people who spend time indoors (or in cars, etc) with smokers. They breath air thick with cigarette smoke millions of times each year. Millions!

If you frequent PA parks, how many equivalent smoke-laden breaths do you think you'll take in a year? Maybe 1? Maybe 3?

Conclusion: completely harmless.

But in the park: you are breathing in exhaust from gas and diesel burning engines all the time. Smoke from barbeques. Smog.

What is the ratio of damage from 2nd hand cigarette smoke in parks to that from other combustion products? Certainly less than 1 in 10,000. Perhaps less than 1 in 1,000,000.

The health hazard is NIL.

Isn't it ironic that in the center of Silicon Valley, the hot-spot of technical excellence on the whole planet, we have such scientifically challenged people running our city?


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on May 13, 2013 at 7:19 pm

I suspect Crescent Park Dad that the police department's position on this ordinance will be one of compliance. If someone complains about someone smoking in a park where it has been prohibited, then the police would respond. If the person complies, then no citation would be issued. If someone refuses, or is a chronic offender, then good chance they would be cited.

I don't believe the police department wants to become the "cigarette police", nor should they in my opinion. If they happen to be in the park I can see them asking someone to put their cigarette out. Otherwise I really don't see this sapping their resources anymore than people walking their dog off leash, or any one of a number of local ordinances.


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