No Smoking Allowed: Tough New Rules On Where You Can Light Up

A proposed change in city law would bar smoking at outdoor concerts, restaurant patios, even inside apartments and townhouses. Is it needed to keep Petalumans healthy or does it go too far?


Petaluma is considering updating its tobacco control ordinance that, if passed, would restrict smoking at bus stops, theater lines as well as all multi-unit dwellings, including inside people’s own apartments.

On Monday, the city council will take up discussion of the proposed changes, which would also require all Petaluma hotels and motels to make at least 80 percent of their rooms smoke-free.

Many cities in Sonoma County have tightened laws on where people can smoke, but Petaluma has so far lagged behind. It did restrict smoking in public parks in 2009, although it’s not clear how well enforced the law is.

But when it comes to smoke in outdoor dining areas, bus stops, outdoor concerts and apartment complexes and other dwellings with shared walls, Petaluma has no laws on the books.

The new proposal, say advocates, will ensure that residents are not exposed to second-hand smoke.

“As harsh as it sounds, there are no actual legal rights for smokers because they aren’t a constitutionally protected class,” says Pam Granger, a spokeswoman for the local chapter of the American Lung Association. “That being said, if a property is large enough, a designated smoking area is an option.”

Over 237 California communities have updated their smoke-free ordinances in light of studies that show that there is no safe level exposure to second hand smoke, even in outdoor areas, according to Granger.

“Children, the elderly and disabled and low-income and other disadvantaged individuals and families are the most likely to suffer from breathing secondhand smoke because they are more likely to live in multi-unit housing, unable to afford a single family home,” she said. 

What do you think about the proposal? Is it a step in the right direction? Or should people living inside apartments be able to smoke if they choose? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of the story we made a mistake about requirements for hotels and motels. The proposed ordinance would require all hotels and motels to make sure that at least 80 percent of their rooms are smoke-free. Patch regrets the error.

patricai anne wilson November 29, 2012 at 06:36 AM
This is big brother wrong!They're out doors!Not enclosed in a vehicle,domicile,enclosed theater Do you people really find yourself lacking in causes??
patricai anne wilson November 29, 2012 at 06:51 AM
Wat's next?The fumes wafting from a neighbor lighting his B-que?A neighboring artist that uses solvent clean their brushes?What's next? Hear New Mexico has a lot of open free space...See Ya!
TechMonkey74 November 29, 2012 at 03:05 PM
Thank you! Thank you! this would be great! I will no longer have to hold my breath when walking past inconsiderate smokers.
Bradford A Morris November 29, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Patricai: Question do you smoke? I will support any ordinance to stop smokers to smoke in anything but a room where they can all kill each other and this room would have filters to catch all the toxin and smell of the tobacco. The smell makes me sick! People with tobacco smell our foul. Butts left on the ground everywhere is litter. All this is just an opinion I know. Here is why I will support no smoking. When I am around smoke I find that I can't breath as well the more smoke the worst it gets. My parents smoke and I have lung problems according to Kaiser P because of it. Pat people do not light up B-que next to me or across the street from me where the wind blows into my face. Second hand smoke is proven that it can cause cancer. So Petaluma please make strong rules against lighting up anywhere in this city unless it is in a location far removed from people to include from air/ wind travel. I should not have to allow other people killing me or making me sick.
jmsstuff November 29, 2012 at 04:09 PM
It takes a lot to try to keep the air we breath clean. There are restrictions on car emissions, fireplaces, smoking in buildings, etc. Pat raises a good point about things like paint solvent and gasoline fuels. These are not good either and should not impinge on those who do not want to breath them. The wide open spaces in New Mexico is a nice shot but it goes both ways. If people want to engage in behaviors dangerous to themselves (in this case breathing anything toxic) they should be free to do so only if they can do it without endangering the rest of us who do not choose to engage in those same behaviors. If that means the people choosing these activities moving to wide open spaces or engaging in those behaviors only where there is filtered ventilation that prevents the toxins from reaching the rest of us then that is what people should do. Then of course there is the issue of scale. The OCCASIONAL whiff of cigarette smoke from my neighbor's balcony is one thing. But the constant flow of it into my home is something else. I do not envy our city officials having to deal with this issue. Personally I do not want to breath any toxins whether it is from smoking in lines, or my neighbor's barbecue and welcome rules that make the air I breath as clean as possible.
Karina Ioffee November 29, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Thanks everyone for your comments. And please keep em coming.
M November 29, 2012 at 06:15 PM
I think that cigarette smoke covers up the stench of patchoulli oil that is so prevalant in the area. @ Bradford: Did you get a 2nd opinion? Or do you believe everything Kaiser tells you? Don't blame others, for your parents negligence. They weren't aware of the dangers (like so many their age) until the Surgeon General started bringing it to people's attention. Not everyone is an inconsiderate smoker. You know what I find disturbing? Most of the people complaining about cigarette smoke, are those who think it's normal to smoke pot on a daily basis. I would much rather walk past a store and catch one whiff of a cigarette, than one whiff from pot. And don't forget. The body has it's own natural filtration system. One whiff of 2nd hand smoke will not do ANYTHING except irratate your nose. It's the "mentality" that is the most dangerous thing here.
AyurvedicMama November 29, 2012 at 06:53 PM
I fully support this ban. Hey someone else might want to smoke, but I certainly don't and neither do my children. Who will enforce this? I can't tell you how often I see people smoking at the entrance (which is already banned) of stores, or even right in front of the hospital. As someone who is pregnant, I certainly find it horribly offensive that I have to go out of my way to hold my breath, cover my face or walk clear out of my way to avoid inconsiderate and selfish people. And no, I don't wear patchouli oil and smoke marijuana (thank you M). I agree, it is the "mentality" that is the most dangerous thing. It's arrogance and inconsideration for others who may chose not to make that decision.
Cindy Rogers November 29, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I lived in Belmont, California, which has some of the most strictest no smoking laws on the books. I am horribly allergic to any kind of smoke, whether its cigarettes, cigars, pot, etc. and end up in the hospital several times with severe asthmatic reactions. For people like me, the non-smoking laws are a god-send. And yes, a whiff of second smoke will do a lot!
Dan Lyke November 29, 2012 at 07:36 PM
I've largely had a "live and let die" attitude towards cigarette smoke, but recently I've been taking the bus to Santa Rosa, and then biking along the Joe Rodota trail to work. The bus stops have a lot of cigarette smoke, and biking through the clouds of tobacco (and, yes, to a far lesser extent, marijuana) smoke on the multi-use path is also extremely annoying. So, yes, I'm for cutting down my exposure to the noxious fumes.
TechMonkey74 November 29, 2012 at 07:43 PM
I don't think a second opinion is needed it is a fact that second hand smoke is toxic in so many ways. Although I do not confront smokers in front of stores that one "whiff" as you call it actually makes me slightly sick for about two hours. The one whiff of second hand smoke probably will not do much but when you encounter the same whiff several times through out your lifetime, guess what?
Bonnie Merrill November 29, 2012 at 08:10 PM
I believe most people already have a tool for avoiding smoke in public places, like lines at Theatres. They need only tell the theatres they will not patronize their business if they continue to allow it. The same is true for any privately owned business. Likewise for living spaces, a person can inquire of the landlord if they allow smoking in ajoining units. If they say they do, a person can choose to reside somewhere else. If the landlord wants high demand and higher rents, they will restrict smoking. I don't smoke myself, or like to be around it. I simply avoid places and businesses where I have it inflicted on me. If enough people did the same thing, this wouldn't even be an issue. I don't know why people look to the government to take care of them when they already have the power themselves.
jmsstuff November 29, 2012 at 08:26 PM
This is again, as with Pat, putting the responsibility on the wrong people. Why should I, or you, have to avoid a theater we want to visit or to live in a place we like because other people emit toxic fumes into the common breathing space? This is where government can do what individuals cannot achieve on their own. You should not have to avoid places where you have it inflicted on you. By the way, probably the sidewalks outside of all the businesses are public spaces and not subject to the control of the individual business.
AyurvedicMama November 29, 2012 at 08:37 PM
So... I should avoid going to the hospital (where I have testing and monitoring done with my pregnancy) and tell them I won't use their services if they don't do something about this? Bologna. I can count the times one one hand that people weren't smoking at the entrance. Break it down. Who is offending? Are those who don't smoke, offending smokers? Or are smokers offending non-smokers. It's about being courteous and respectful. Non-smokers pose no health threat. Smokers, however, do.
Bonnie Merrill November 29, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Apparently you think that large groups of people avoiding a business won't make the business discontinue a practice. I believe it will. If you say you shouldn't have to do anything at all to protect yourself, well we just have to agree to disagree. As far as a hospital is concerned, they already have designated smoking areas by law, and you only need to report the people smoking at the entrance to management. You will still have to take that small step if a law is passed.
M November 29, 2012 at 10:15 PM
I have a better idea. How about people suck it up and stop complaining about asnine things? I don't hear people complain about noxious fumes from farts while standing in line at a store, or the noise pollution of bratty kids running around the store acting like they have never been out of the house or off of their "leash". Or the noise pollution of people chatting on their cell phones? What about the unnecessary radiation? I don't want to be exposed to that. How about the people who wear so much fragrance, that it makes one gag? As for smokers "rights", smokers are people and the last time I checked, this IS a free country. It's the inconsiderate jerks who are the ones standing in the middle of a line, smoking. That just shows their character. Whether they were smoking, or not, they will always be a jerk. Simple solution: if you are offended or irratated, use this novel concept of COMMUNICATION. Are there really that many people out there too intimidated to voice their concerns and address the situation in a mature fashion?
jmsstuff November 29, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Well, M, you do raise some of life's irritating issues! Yet what is being discussed is Petaluma's propose tobacco ordinance. When they take up a fart ordinance we can discuss that too. :)
Lance G. November 29, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Hi Dan, Santa Rosa currently is not considering such an ordinance, although Sebastopol does. If you'd like to see a similar ordinance in Santa Rosa, please contact your Santa Rosa City Council members. Lance Goller Norhern California Center for Well-Being "To Breathe Better" project
AyurvedicMama November 30, 2012 at 03:52 AM
jmsstuff- I am down with a fart ordinance. Just don't sign me up to become an olfactory officer.
charles merrill November 30, 2012 at 08:45 AM
I find that smoking in a line at a theatre or other event is quite inconsiderate and I will ask someoine to not smoke. If they refuse, I will either leave or go management for assistance. I am not for more ordinances which reduce our freedom more. I certainly am not for banning smoking in one's home which might happen to be an appartment. Hotels do need to have mostly non-smoking rooms becuse the small of a smoke does linger and may permeate the room.
Dan Lyke November 30, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Lance, I just commute to Santa Rosa, I'm a Petaluma resident. But, yes, I will express to those I know in Santa Rosa politics that the corner across from the theater where I catch the bus would be way way nicer without cigarette smoke. (And, hopefully, the transit mall, if they ever finish that...)
Lisa Ohman December 01, 2012 at 06:25 AM
my vote: Yes -update and toughen-up the tobacco ordinance. If you want to smoke in your own home, then Buy your Own home....with the money you'll be saving...not to mention saving/protecting your own health and the health of others (your own children??really?)..along with the $$ Everyone will be saving by not having to subsidize your healthcare by self inflicted illnesses and illness caused to others....win/win... I could go on & on...trash-cig butts/emptying packaging tossed on the ground..who cleans up??you??...fires, loss of life/property damage, expense of careless smokers tossing lit smokes from vehicles etc.., cost and risks of the 911 emergency responders/volunteers/good samaritans to help (said people) ...smoking is a very self centered activity...not much thought to others....START THINKING ABOUT SOMEONE OTHER THAN YOURSELVES!!!!!
Frankie2011 December 01, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Well, I guess it's time that we initiate "Smoker Rights". Let's face it folks - there are people who smoke. It's a very difficult habit to break. What about the low-income living in the worst parts of the neighborhood. Living with outdated ventilation systems, lead paint, asbestos, mold, etc. Oh yeah, not to mention having to sign a release of liability to live with those conditions. Tell me, what next - oh yes, forgot to mention I can't have plants on a downstairs patio railing because of a safety issue. Isn't it really the fact that the railing is rotting and they don't want to fix it? Oh, I better take it down, so I don't get evicted for "Just Cause". Same with the smoking issue - we had to sign a document that says if we smoke, we would be evicted. Is this legal? I guess if you don't smoke it's legal.
Frankie2011 December 03, 2012 at 05:52 AM
Are you God? Pretty Scary! What made you Holier Than Thou? Tell me. I'm pretty sure you were a spoiled little rich girl from somewhere other than Petaluma. Why don't you go down to the local Food Kitchen and have a nice lunch and day! Heaven forbid! Your attitude is rotten and I feel pity on your soul.
Mary Jo Wheeler December 04, 2012 at 01:55 AM
As a former smoker for many years (43 yrs!), it is so easy to see from these posts who is a smoker and who isn't. I would have been outraged at any kind of smoking ban and yelling about my "rights" as a smoker - IF I were still smoking. Now i am 100% FOR the ban; I learned the hard way, I gave myself have emphysema. I am now actually ashamed of how I behaved as a smoker: selfish, not caring if anyone else was exposed to my smoke. Now even a whiff of cigarette smoke hurts my lungs.
jmsstuff December 04, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Sorry about your situation, Mary Jo. I smoked for about 10 years and quit about 40 years ago, so far no sign the folly has caught up with me. I also sympathize with Frankie2011. It is VERY difficult to stop smoking. I see today that the ban has passed. A good thing but it will be hard on smokers who will be legally banned from smoking in or around their homes (condos and apartments). It is interesting that the ban was not extended to single family dwellings. Must have been too politically tough to do? Especially in old Petaluma where homes are packed tight it is not far or hard for smoke to drift from a private home or backyard into the home next door.


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