San Rafael Council Approves Marin's Toughest Smoking Ban

In a unanimous vote, the San Rafael City Council approved a smoking ban that will prohibit smokers from lighting up in parks, multi-family residences and downtown sidewalks. What's your reaction to the law?


San Rafael smokers will find it more difficult to light up thanks to a new smoking ban the San Rafael City Council unanimously passed this week.

The ban prohibits smoking on downtown sidewalks, in local parks as well as indoors and outside of duplexes and multi-family houses. The ordinance, which is one of the toughest anti-tobacco laws in Marin, was put in place with the hope to protect people against the dangers of secondhand smoke, reduce fire hazards and reduce property damage caused by tobacco smoke.

“This ordinance is not a case of the government arbitrarily swooping in to impinge on individual freedoms,” Councilman Damon Connolly said at the meeting. “It was born from a drum beat of concerns from residents.”

Last year,

San Rafael regulates the sale of tobacco products, but the city earned a “C” grade on the 2012 annual State of Tobacco Control report, produced by the American Lung Association, due to low scores in outdoor air and smoke-free housing. The new ordinance, which is the first in Marin to ban smoking in apartments, will bring the city’s grade up to an “A.”

San Anselmo and Fairfax earned a "D" grade in the 2011 report

Other than protecting people from the health hazards of secondhand smoke, the ban is also meant to protect property owners from any cigarette-related damages to apartments or condos that could result in higher rents, according to San Rafael city staff. 

In November 2011, several residents of a condo on 123 Knollwood Dr. were displaced after a fire destroyed their homes and killed an elderly woman. The fire was sparked by a cigarette.

Two of the victims, Morven Seib and Eraina Von Staufeen, appeared at the public hearing to show their support for the ordinance. “We’re still not in our homes today,” Von Staufeen said.

Landlords, community centers and business owners can create designated smoking areas that are subject to restrictions. These areas will be 20 feet away from areas of employment, 100 feet away from playgrounds or recreation centers and can not be in enclosed area.

Police will enforce the ban based on complaints, and landlords will add the new prohibitions into their leases. The city estimates that new “No Smoking” signs will cost the city around $12,000, but it is unknown what the cost of the extra enforcement personnel will be.

To some, designated smoking areas don’t carry much weight. Zack Edison said that 32 people out of 100 still inhale second hand smoke at the Bocce courts at the San Rafael Community Center, even though the smokers are in a designated area. “The designated smoking areas are pretty useless,” he said. “It doesn’t have any teeth.”

Councilman Andrew McCullough wondered if the restrictions would result in low-income smokers being evicted by landlords for violating the ban when some downtown apartments will not be able to meet criteria for designated smoking areas. “My concern is for the people living in an area where there is not feasible alternative,” he said.

The council will evaluate any problems that arise with the ban in 12 months. It will go into effect by mid-November.

“Please keep the boldness of this ordinance in place,” said San Rafael resident Jan Collier. Collier said that although she doesn’t smoke, she inhales second smoke from her neighbors in her apartment complex from 7 a.m. to midnight.  “[This ban] doesn’t just change lives, it saves lives,” she said.

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C Ross October 05, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I'm all for smoking bans, as tough as possible, as I believe exposure to second hand smoke/chemicals/toxins is probably one of our biggest health and safety hazards. But I do wonder how effective enforcement will be. The Town of Fairfax, I believe, already initiated a "tough" no-smoking ordinance, yet it's difficult to go anywhere in Town and not feel the effects of smoking, especially downtown near the bars and cafes. People smoke in front of them all the time, on the sidewalk, which is nowhere near 20 feet wide and provides no separation from the entrances and windows to numerous shops and restaurants. Speaking of the Fairfax smoking ban...Do you know how San Rafael's compares to it? How is the SR ban tougher?
mimi oconnor October 05, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Another reason not to frequent San Anselmo businesses.
C Ross October 05, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Mimi, I'm not following you. Why shouldn't people frequent SA businesses?
Carol X October 06, 2012 at 03:09 AM
What's my reaction? I'll tell you my reaction. It's bullshit. Why don't they just declare smoking illegal? There is no way you can 'feel the effects' of 2nd-hand smoke by passing by a smoker. Moreover, the argument that it's a cigarette's fault that someone burned a building down is a false premise. A restaurant in San Rafael recently lost business when a car slammed into the front of it. Someone could have been killed! So they should ban cars, right?
Life in the Bubble October 06, 2012 at 03:57 AM
Carol X- I'll tell you my reaction to your reaction. Your argument is BS. Science is not on your side. There are millions of pages of research that show the negative effects of second hand smoke. Smokers are nicotine addicts, period. Addicts engage in self destructive behavior at the expense of others, period. Yes, it sucks walking by a smoker. First of all, it reeks. Smokers stink. Their hair, clothing, breath stinks. Cigarette smoke sticks to everything. Spend any time near smokers and your clothes and hair stink, too. Smokers routinely smoke near children with developing lungs and respiratory systems. That's the nature of addiction though, isn't it. Smokers throw millions of cigarette butts onto the street every single day in the U.S. Tens of millions of cigarette butts flow into our oceans, streams, and waterways every year. Smokers toss cigarette butts on every hiking trail, beach, park, and beautiful public space every day. (I've found cigarette butts deep in wilderness areas, far from any trailhead). That's the nature of addiction though, isn't it. Smokers also disproportionately use public healthcare resources. Asthma, emphysema, and smoking related COPD cost all of us billions each year. To top it off, smokers rabidly fight for their "freedom" to poison others. Smokers routinely use shill arguments about cars, trucks and buses to justify their addictions. Sad.
Jonik October 06, 2012 at 06:47 AM
Who's free to poison others? Well, it's the cig industry which is still permitted, by sold out officials, to adulterate so-called "tobacco products" with radiation from certain fertilizers, with dioxin-creating chlorine pesticides and chlorine-bleached paper, with ammonia, with formaldehyde, and with any out of a list of about 1400 untested, often toxic non-tobacco additives...not one labeled, of course. To even think of blaming the deceived, secretly-poisoned, unprotected, uncompensated smokers, who think and are repeatedly told it's all just tobacco, for effects of that is beyond cruelty....unless one didn't know about the actual nature of typical smoking products. Ignorance, or psychopathic cruelty. Pick one. Don't do either, actually. Search up "Fauxbacco" http://fauxbacco.blogspot.com for ample reference material to see some of this straight.
C Ross October 06, 2012 at 06:58 AM
Manufactured cigarettes *should* be banned. When you smoke them, you're exposing yourself and others to approximately 4000 (yes, 4000) chemicals, including ammonia, acetone, cadmium, vinyl chloride, carbon monoxide, cyanide, formaldehyde and arsenic. I find it hard to believe that you actually think nobody else can feel the effects of 2nd hand smoke if they are just passing by. Do you really not understand that your smoke gets in my eyes and nose and clings to my skin, clothing and hair? Studies aside, I don't appreciating you invalidating my personal experience. I don't even have to "smell" the smoke to feel the negative effects: My ears plug up, my eyes burn, I get dizzy and nauseous. I cough and choke, and suffer debilitating migraines, from a handshake, a hug, or even from being in the same room with a smoker, even if they haven't smoked recently. I once sublet an apartment from a smoker, and even though it had been cleaned, I ended up in the hospital. I agree It's very sad that this has to be legislated. It's bad enough that smokers make themselves sick. But if you don't have the consideration not to care enough not to make US sick, I am thankful that there are those who are trying to protect us from you via bans, laws, fines and whatever else it takes.
Life in the Bubble October 06, 2012 at 09:25 PM
While I'd agree with the evils of the cigarette industry, smokers are anything but "secretly-poisoned" or "deceived". Again, there are zillions of pages of research and in-your-face anti smoking ads that detail the chemicals in tobacco. Hard to believe that anyone really believes that there aren't horrible additives in tobacco- even the roll-your-own or "natural" varieties. FYI- (and most smokers know this as well), tobacco companies experimented with nicotine free tobacco. Nicotine can be hybridized right out of tobacco. Guess what? Smokers just switched brands, or complained that the tobacco wasn't the same. Take the addictive substances out of tobacco, and you don't have a multi-billion dollar business. Yet smokers still fight for their right to poison themselves and others under the guise of "freedom."
Carol X October 07, 2012 at 12:49 AM
Well, Life, I could tell you all the ways you are wrong, but that would take hours. Suffice to say that some people are addicted to being self-righteous, entitled a-holes.
Carol X October 07, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Dyanne, you sound like a very sick person, and I feel sorry for you.
C Ross October 07, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Carol, no you're not. If you really felt "sorry" for the suffering of non-smokers because of *your* own addiction, you would at least have the courtesy not to smoke any where other than the privacy of your own or other smokers' homes (indoors and away from neighbors). And you wouldn't be trying to convince everyone else that your dirty habit doesn't affect them, or if it does they must be crazy, self righteous a**holes. Perhaps it's time to hold up some mirrors. You might also want to read this article. I thought it was rather interesting http://whyquit.com/whyquit/linksaaddiction.html
C Ross October 07, 2012 at 01:39 AM
Jonik: Big tobacco specifically manufactures cigarettes with added chemicals to make them especially addictive to keep the profits flowing. Once the addiction -- which is probably the worst on the planet -- kicks in, so does the denial. So the nicotine addicts beg, borrow, lie, steal and do whatever it takes to keep buying cigarettes, while trying to convince others we need to continue to support not only their habit (which many can't even admit to), but their "rights" and personal freedoms. And while *I* care about the exposure to all these chemicals, the average smoker couldn't care less. You really think that "labeling" is going to make a difference to an addict? Yeah, right. So now, in addition to GMOs in food, we're supposed to get the tobacco industry to label their poison sticks? Ironically, it's not going to be at my expense, but would likely make cigarettes even more expensive to the smoker who doesn't care anyway. The whole thing truly is disgusting, but I frankly don't think it's possible to break the tobacco companies unless you have no more smokers buying their products. We can't stop the vast majority of people from smoking considerately. Do you really think it's possible to get people to stop BUYING cigarettes altogether?
chris December 06, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Another stellar example of reading comprehension.
warren April 21, 2013 at 12:09 PM
the same ban on smoking was just passed in Boulder, CO. I think you will see laws like this become more prevalent. Smokers are hopelessly addicted to nicotine and the vast majority want to stop smoking. I hope that all smokers will attempt to give up this terrible habit. If you are a smoker and you want to quit please read http://quitsmokingwithoutpain.blogspot.com


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