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Palo Alto eyes smoking ban downtown

Original post made on Nov 14, 2013

Having snuffed out smoking at local parks earlier this year, Palo Alto officials are now proposing to extend the cigarette ban to the city's two most prominent business districts.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, November 14, 2013, 9:44 AM

Comments (45)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2013 at 10:13 am

Please, if you do this, include parking lots.

I have found that the parking lots become smokers' havens in areas where there are downtown bans and quite often it means I have to walk right beside a group of smokers to get into or out of my car. They seem to feel that it is perfectly OK for them to smoke right beside my car, often chatting on the phone and completely (?) oblivious to the fact that I am walking through their smokestream.

Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:01 am

I'd love it on California Ave. Smokers gather outside of Antonio's and it affects outdoor seating in other restaurants, including Starbucks and the Counter.

Posted by barron parker
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:08 am

The tiny amount of smoking in parks was never a health hazard except to the smoker. We all know that.

This set of smoking bans is just a distraction from the real problems facing Palo Alto: (1) unsustainable pensions and benefits for city workers (for every dollar we pay today, we're kicking down the road about $0.50 for other people to pay over the next 50 years -- how stupid is that!), (2) nearly unrestricted PC zoning changes and development, fuelled by the recent run-up in real estate prices, (3) ABAG mandates that will, if we succumb, turn Palo Alto into a high density urban waste-scape with ever worse traffic choking our streets.

That's what these elected officials on city council should be trying to solve.

As for cigarettes, why take these tentative little baby steps? Since you seem bent on distracting everyone from the real problems, at least make yourselves infamous. Go all the way -- ban smoking in the city limits.

Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:12 am

NOT a smoker, but all these bans don't seem right. It's how we end up with pockets or groups of smokers that we have to pass or walk through.
I don't know what the "answer" is, but I don't like groups of people deciding what I can or cannot do, because THEY think is right.

Posted by KP
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:14 am

@Barron Parker - EXACTLY
Pay attention to the real needs of our city, city council!

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:24 am

I don't care for smoking, but it IS legal for those 18 and older. I am concerned about the small city of Palo Alto wasting time at city council on quirky lawmaking: you can smoke here, but not there, and oh, not there also and counting on police to enforce all this and residents and visitors to even know the particulars. I gather regular code enforcement - see: leaf blower violations, some parking violations in neighborhoods and so on - are unchecked. Meantime, look at the big picture: IF public health warrants it, outlaw smoking in city limits and notify all of that fact at city entrances and enforce the law. Otherwise, stick to the big issues pertinent to the city of Palo Alto.

Posted by GG
a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:29 am

Please do not smoke,
BUT send the money saved to the City to pay for the Library overrun, construction ditching oversight, cover the referendum cost, and off course, consultants help a totally incompetent management and an arrogant Council
City should focus on real issues
When are we going to wake-up?

Posted by Aerdii
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:32 am

Ban it all! Selfish, irresponsible, self-destructive behavior that has no place in modern civilized society. Until the drug is made illegal overall, at least pushing it to the margins of respectable society is a step in the right direction.

Posted by Mike
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:37 am

This is such big brother nonsense.

Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:38 am

I'm not a fan of smoking either, but lets get real. There are some people who work in these two areas who are smokers and it's unrealistic to expect that these people can get to an area where smoking is acceptable to satisfy that craving and get back to work in the 15 minutes scheduled for breaks if the city keeps closing out these areas of acceptability.

Stop with the micromanaging laws and manage the city more effectively...the infrastructure and simple safety.

You might start by educating our police that they are not "above" the law. Their role is to enforce them for the good of all concerned and more importantly "examples" of appropriate behavior.

I've seen so many police racing around town (without lights or sirens to justify their speed) and breaking laws for their own convenience, that I wonder if anyone is managing them.

Posted by Sharon and Samuel Baume
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:45 am

This is another of the "feel good" issues that our council loves to focus on. I expect that Kniss will soon be pontificating again about how she is the "guardian of public health" (while misleading the public about her health status during her last election campaign)
Will this new law also ban the council from blowing smoke out of their..........

Posted by Dennis
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:59 am

Bravo! And while you're at it, get rid of the diesel fume delivery system masquerading as a sidewalk sweeper. And don't get me started on leaf blowers and the beep-beep-beep madness of trucks, and the prehistoric beastly howling of garbage trucks.

Posted by Jeanie Smith
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:17 pm

This is an absurd idea. The amount of smoking in business areas is already negligible. Littered butts? I don't see them. We are becoming so intolerant we are in danger of restricting others' rights needlessly, and perhaps even illegally. The occasional incidental whiff of smoke from far away is not going to kill someone, and to claim otherwise is ludicrous. Smoking indoors may constitute a health hazard; but smoking outdoors? This is a VERY slippery slope, and I deplore this overuse of power... I don't smoke BTW.

Let's concentrate on real problems facing Palo Alto, not some trumped up issue...

Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:19 pm

More big brother nonsense.

Much better we should breathe the exhaust fumes from cars backed up forever.

Posted by Yuck
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm

There's already a ban on doing heroin in the park bushes (YES HEROIN!!), but that isn't working either. My 8 year old was fascinated by viewing that last Tuesday.
Family Friendly Palo Alto!

Posted by What about...
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm

What about people who drink in public? Apart from University Ave, the laws against this do NOT appear to be enforced. I have seen people drinking alcohol in small parks around town, such as Peers and Bowdin; in parking lots and garages off California Ave and off University, and in the two CalTrain stations. A few times I have seen people drinking directly put of wine bottles on Alma near Oregon.

Posted by juan olive
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 14, 2013 at 2:44 pm

They should ban drinking in Palo Alto which kills people instantly (Car crashes, DUI etc...) This whole smoking thing started with them passing a simple, fair "You can smoke 10 feet outside from a building, law) And when they saw how easy it was to pass with no opposition, then they took advantage and went further. I don't smoke and I may not like it, but it is a right that is being taken away from THE PEOPLE.
The fire at Simms on Monday caused more harm to more people then what this ban will save.
"Parts Per Million" is what the smokers should look into and use as a defense.

Posted by businessdecision
a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 3:10 pm

What I would like to see banned actually is the Weekly.
There is censorship all the time.
Why not just censor yourelf out of existence.

Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

We are strongly in favor of banning smoking near any building entrance or any outdoor seating area or any public walkway, at least during normal business hours. If people want to smoke after midnight when they are walking home from bars and no children are around, that's fine with me.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Frank
a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Perhaps Palo Alto can swing a deal with the Feds to send all the smokers to Gitmo.

Posted by Joy Reist
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I call this "nit picking." I see very few smokers in these business districts (especially California Avenue) that this would apply to. Please, city council, keep to the important issues. Certainly we can use common sense and move our bodies away from the smoke.

Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Ok City Council, can we please focus on the issues that really impact the average Palo Alto citizen!
Are you trying to distract all of us with this ridiculous smoking ban? Personally, I hardly ever see anyone smoking downtown and when I do, they are visiting from another country! Lighten up!

Posted by parent
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Moving away from the smokers is not practical when you are sitting at a table having lunch. Are you supposed to ask the waiter to move you? What if there are no more tables? Yes, smokers are supposed to be courteous enough not to smoke near restaurants, but there are restaurants up and down California Ave and most of them have outdoor seating. If smoking is already rare, then no one should oppose and the city council can approve it quickly and move on to other issues.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 10:48 pm

I used to be a smoker and had to really try hard to quit. Now, I have no use for it, no tolerance for those who do smoke. The less people see of smokers the less people will become smokers the better off they will be.

How stupid does one have to be to smoke at this point in time? Giving your money to the scum of the Earth tobacco companies that scheme only about how to hook more people against their will and all to hurt your health and maybe kill yourself is not a trait I can really respect. But that is also not the issue.

If smokers can find a place to smoke that does not bother non-smokers - let them do what they want. Finding that place is their problem, not mine. Parents that smoke at home, indoors around their kids use the same excuses about freedom and big brother ... blah, blah, blah!

This is the age of stop finding reasons to hurt and bother other people for no point at all levels. We'ce practically poisoned or adulterated every single area of this planet based on the right to pollute ... I've never seen it voted on or in any Constitution. And then we balk at having a right to health care. Unbelievable.

Posted by Oh, yes!
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 15, 2013 at 12:45 am

I was inside the Giants Dugout store and someone was smoking outside but the cigarette smoke blew inside the store, even to the back of the store! It was a miserable experience because I dislike cigarette smoke. While I think people should have the right to do what they want to their bodies (abortions, or people shouldn't be forced to wear helmets while biking or motorcycling) when people smoke, it affects others. That's why it should be banned. I don't care if they want to kill themselves, but they should respect others.

Posted by mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 15, 2013 at 2:35 am

I don't smoke. As long as they smoke outdoors, then wtf. Let them smoke themselves to death. A little smoke outdoors gets disbursed anyway. I'm sure cars emit more harmful exhaust then one or more cigarettes.

Posted by Mary
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Nov 15, 2013 at 8:20 am

The city council has now become the gestapo. Stop it. Palo Alto is becoming less and less livable.

Posted by Margaret
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 15, 2013 at 8:34 am

I fully support this. Why should non smokers be subjected to carcinogens from smokers? It's a balance of rights, and I come out on the side of favoring the rights of those not doing harm to others.

Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Good point Margaret -- why do I have to breathe someone else's cigarette smoke? Like many people, young and old, I suffer from bad asthma. It's been a rough week for air pollution, thanks to that huge chemical fire.

But regular exposure? I don't need to be subjected to the chemical releases when people smoke in public areas or outside of the entrances to businesses.

I feel bad that they are addicted to tobacco. It's their choice, but exposure to their smoke is not a choice for me because breathing is not an option.

Posted by HUTCH 7.62
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 15, 2013 at 2:10 pm

After reading some of the comments it's no wonder why our govt. is trampling on our freedoms. Why do we need more laws nothing is gonna change. How about we all focus on more important problems in Palo Alto. Then we can deal with trivial problems like smoking bans.

Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2013 at 2:53 pm

Hutch: Health and Safety is one of the main purposes of city government. It's not frivolous.

It always surprises me that Libertarians are against all shared benefits from government BUT scream when a personal economic benefit to them is involved. There are a lot of expectations that they can have the wealth from Silicon Valley growth, but keep newcomers (usually nonwhite) out along with the (non-productive) elderly. It seems that PA wants to be a city with a very narrow demographic.

I agree that we absolutely need to monitor government decisions, that's good citizenship and good democracy...but local government is not our enemy. It's not a monolith bogeyman, but is composed of our neighbors who are elected or employed and try to make careers there. They could be earning a lot more, and getting a lot less grief, in the private sector.

Criticism is one thing, but often the level of abuse and attacks from local citizens is incredible and unhealthy. Do you not notice how over major departments have huge turnovers? PA can't hold onto Planning personnel. City workers endure an awful lot of abuse just to put food on the table. Do you really want to attack the police and fire personnel responsible for your safety?

Finally --- it always amazes me that Palo Alto elections are enthusiastic, and then the day after the community turns on the people they just elected.

Or, is most of the acrimony just on these pages? Is the quality of civic life less contentious than it appears here?

Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 15, 2013 at 3:49 pm

I don't mind people smoking; it's the exhaling that causes problems.

Posted by Terri
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 15, 2013 at 9:44 pm

I live with a smoker, and he would love to quit. after spending thousands on "cures" that have not lasted, we now face the not allowed to smoke anywhere proposition. I realize this guy is a human being, and really kind and loving. He is as considerate as he can be, and I am sick and tired of all these extreme ideas by the city council, to govern his life, and make him feel aweful. He has real reasons that he smokes, would like to quit, but in the meantime he is sworn at, glared at, and even yelled at when he is in some far part of a parking lot trying to isolate himself. Where is tolerence? or understanding. If you are healthy and can see, why walk into smoke? Go around!. And City Council, why waste your time putting up new laws that won't be enforced? Is that so our entitled snobs can moan about these "disgusting smokers'? who are just like you and me but have some other problem.

Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Nov 15, 2013 at 11:02 pm

I can give the smoker you live with a heartfelt and enthusiastic recommendation re: the American Cancer Society's smoking cessation class. They really helped me finally stop (after trying everything else) and it was one of the hardest and best things I've ever done. It is a terrible addiction, and my heart goes out to smokers who know they are hurting others but feel trapped by the habit.

Nevertheless, if you can't stop please smoke in your own territory instead of in public where you are affecting other people's health. Thanks.

And, good luck with stopping.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2013 at 9:06 am

Terri, I think if your cohabitant friend smokes and he sincerely wants to quit and you sincerely would like him to quit, that any change that makes it more likely that he will smoke less would help you both to get what you want. If you or/and he are more rebellious about being told what to do than you are in having a good outcome for yourself and others, maybe you both need to rethink that. Maybe the chemical affects of nicotine are complicating the problem and affecting your thinking rather than the oppressive affects of the city to ensure the rights of non-smokers are oppressing you? Just a thought.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2013 at 9:19 am

I don't like smoking. My Dad smoked all his life from the age of about 11 until his death at almost 80. He was a messy, unthoughtfull, selfish smoker and I hated it so much that I have never tried even one drag.

Saying that, I do have a lot of sympathy for smokers. He tried several times during his latter years to quit and even went for about 9 months completely smoke free until a stressful moment made him take just one cigarette and he was smoking all the time again.

Rather than banning smoking from here, there and everywhere, it would make a lot more sense to me to have smoking places where someone could smoke in peace. If each downtown area and each park had one designated smoking area at the back or in a more out of the way area where smokers could feel that they could smoke their one cigarette and then go back and be part of society again it would probably help them feel better about themselves as well as others.

We were abroad this year and stayed in a hotel where there was an outdoor smoking place in an out of the way part of the landscaping. There were several benches, several sand tubs for ash and butts and plants with large leaves which didn't appear to be suffering from all the smoke. The smokers congregated, chatted and puffed away, then returned to their groups a little more relaxed and certainly didn't feel as if they had done anything more than a visit to the restroom. It all seemed very civilized.

So, to sum up. I say smoking places rather than bans.

Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2013 at 11:30 am

"If it gets the bums of (sic) University, I'm all for it."

When the city banned smoking 20 feet from doorways on University Avenue, the owner of the property at the corner of Bryant Street that was then used by Starbucks and Noah's Bagels thought he could then get rid of the "bums" on the benches that to his surprise were 25 feet from the doorways. So then the benches were removed.

When smoking is banned in the University Avenue and California Avenue business districts, the workers who smoke will just go smoke in the surrounding residential neighborhoods that will then become less pleasant places to live when the employees go to smoke in the same residential neighborhoods where they park their cars.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Smokers should be required to wear airtight spacesuit like helmets over their heads that keeps their smoke in ... that ought to make them happy. ;-)

Seriously, if anything, limiting places smokers can smoke will help them quit. When I used to smoke long ago, they had a room where all the smokers went ... it was full of smoke, thick like SF pea soup fog, had about 15 electrostatic air-purifiers going ... it was disgusting. I'd just not smoke rather than go into that horrible torture chamber. It made it easier to quit ... but it was still hard.

Posted by Joe Schmelzer
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 20, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Palo ALto used to be a place where individualism and self-governance were de rigeur. Now, it's a city (mostly) overrun by new monied tech savants and their attorneys.

Thankfully, a guy like Greg Schmid still exists on the board to remind everyone that we STILL live in a free country, and there's big difference between not liking something and the need to make it illegal. I.e. tyranny of the majority. Palo Alto should consider itself fortunate to have Greg Schmid carrying the flag of independently-minded consideration.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 21, 2013 at 12:30 am

> Thankfully, a guy like Greg Schmid still exists on the board to remind everyone that we STILL live in a free country, and there's big difference between not liking something and the need to make it illegal.

Yeah, I bet all the people who died in all the wars would be really happy to know it was to protect some fool's right to pay the tobacco company exec to make himself and others unhealthy and eventually kill himself.

I'm kind of longing for the say when people who equate nasty habits with patriotism going to be laughed out of town?

Greg Schmid should get in here and clear this up, I'm certainly not going to vote for him with a recommendation like that. Is he a chain smoker or something?

Posted by Smokestack
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Dec 4, 2013 at 3:48 pm

Whine whine whine. It's bad enough that smokers can't enjoy Palo Alto parks but now the whole of down town will be smoke free too? What a joke. And that dumb lady who says to ban it in parking lots too? Because smokers are smoking outside your car? Get real! I promise you're not going to die of smoke inhalation just by walking past second hand smoke for thirty seconds! I completely understand the no smoking in front of restaurants, in front of businesses, in front of mothers and their infants but Palo Alto needs to get a reality check. Smoking is going to happen, and even though you chose not to partake, ruining it for everyone else just because you're poor lungs can't handle the slightest whiff of second hand smoke is ridiculous and shows how idiotic and snobby some Palo Altans can be.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 4, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Whine, whine, whine but call everyone else the whiners just because you smokers cannot indulge your pathetic addiction that is making you sick and people do not want to be subjected to ... you smokers are delusional.

Posted by Resident
a resident of another community
on Dec 5, 2013 at 12:41 am

[Post removed.]

Posted by Donald Steiny
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 5, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Could they enforce it? They don't enforce the rule against bicycles on University Avenue, the tunnel under the tracks or the train platform. They don't enforce the rule against smoking on the train platform. They don't enforce the rule against leaf blowers. I would love to see all of those things happen but unless people follow the rules voluntarily someone has to make them do it. Would that really happen? Could the City afford it?

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