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Sebastopol approves tough smoking ban


Chris Ranta usually lights up outdoors. Even as a fan of heavy-hitting Marlboro Reds, he doesn’t want to be surrounded by the odor in his house.

But news that he soon may not have the choice to smoke at home strikes him as preposterous. The Sebastopol City Council voted Tuesday to ban cigarette smoking in multi-unit dwellings, while preserving the right to consume medical marijuana in such abodes.

It’s something out of “1984,” George Orwell’s famous story of government run amok, said Ranta, who lives in Bear Meadows Townhomes on Bodega Avenue.

“That’s Big Brother talking,” he said. “You’re taking rights away from a person.”

Not so says Councilwoman Kathleen Shaffer, one of the main champions of the change. She’s said the restrictions — which passed unanimously — are about giving rights to children, not taking rights.

It’s a topic she’s lived through. As a child growing up with parents who both smoked in the house, she was perpetually sick, she said.

She picked up the habit herself, but quit at 29 after numerous illnesses. Since then, she’s been a picture of health, she said.

The restriction on smoking in multi-unit dwellings ensures that one person’s smoke doesn’t pollute another’s abode through common vents, crawl spaces and other passages. And it ensures, kids don’t bear the brunt of that seepage. “You’re really trapped as a kid like I was,” she said.

The vote delighted Pam Granger, with the American Lung Association of California, who said she was “happy, happy, happy” that a municipality in her backyard was taking such a strong position.

In California, only the city of Belmont has an ordinance as broad as Sebastopol’s, although Rohnert Park will have a smoking prohibition in half of that city’s apartments that takes effect next year.

Granger cited 2006 remarks by Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona, then the U.S. Surgeon General, to show the level of importance. Carmona said: “There is no risk-free level of secondhand smoke exposure, with even brief exposure adversely affecting the cardiovascular and respiratory system.”

“We are thrilled they are stepping up to meet the demands of the public,” Granger said.

Still, even some non-smokers felt the vote was a reach of government powers. Bev Alexander, who quit smoking when she was pregnant with her now 26-year-old son, said she she considers smoking dirty and disgusting.

But Alexander, who lives in an apartment off Bodega Avenue, has a hard time with the idea of being able to tell someone what they can do in the privacy of their home.

“Your home is supposed to be your castle,” she said. “If you can’t do what you want to do in your home, how can you call it your castle?”

Council members had originally considered passing restrictions on all smoking, but limited themselves to tobacco after hearing from users of medicinal marijuana.

Shaffer said she dislikes smoke of all kinds. But she said she didn’t want to stigmatize people who need doctor-prescribed cannabis for medical conditions.

Councilman Larry Robinson, however, said limiting the restriction to tobacco was out of legal necessity. The proposed ordinance had focused all its reasoning and evidence on tobacco, not pot.

“We didn’t really have sufficient justification for banning other kinds of smoke,” Robinson said.

The council will revisit the issue later to see if complaints about pot smoking become a problem, he said

Robert Jacob, the executive director of the town’s Peace In Medicine cannabis dispensary, said the decision to leave medical marijuana alone was a significant victory.

“It’s a great moment in the story of medicinal cannabis that a city actually recognized the value of medicinal cannabis versus the harmful effects of tobacco,” he said.

The ordinance requires that landlords write into leases for new renters a prohibition on smoking, with a 14-month grace period for existing tenants.

The Sebastopol ordinance will be brought back at a future City Council meeting for final approval, usually a routine step.

21 Responses to “Sebastopol approves tough smoking ban”

  1. Need e-mail of Council member Kathleen Shaffer, regarding smoking ban subject. I am fighting to have one in Riverside, CA.

    Salvador Santana
    The Truth Publication Online

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  2. Lamont says:

    The council surely does know that all apartments are separated by a one hour rated firewall where even any switches and receptcales must be special. The massive myth regarding “2nd hand smoke” is probably a faux moral judgement masquerading as a health issue. Once Big Nanny gets her foot in the door, she’ll have us all become vegetarians next, as that would be better for our health.

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  3. Frank says:

    how many home-invasion’s have been committed for cigs, vs reefers

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  4. JASON LANG says:

    I do not smoke cigarettes but this is rediculus! If they can take their rights away they can take yours! Maybe the perfume you use bothers me and my child coming through the vents? Please! Give us a break and my kids are grown and I am tired of paying for yours! It’s always ‘for the children’. Nov. is almost here vote these idiots like Boxer and the rest out of office-lets not even bring up Jerry Brown-what a disaster or maybe your not old enough to remember?

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  5. Voice of Reason says:

    Another crazy law. I’m an apartment owner and a General Contractor. I can tell you that in almost every case, the heating and ventilating systems are not connected. If an apartment resident pays their own PG&E bill, you can be sure the heating and cooling systems are not connected. The new law violates our privacy rights that are supposed to be unalienable. Smoking cigarettes is legal. If an apartment dweller can document that harmful smoke is entering their apartment at harmful levels from another person’s unit, and if closing your windows doesn’t solve the problem, then I suggest they take that person to court and try to prove it.

    The Sebastopol City Council is way off base in trying to prohibit someone from engaging in a legal activity inside theirProut home. What will be next, that you must remain clothed at all times so that there is no chance that your neighbor might see you through a window? The smoking ban could be a “gateway” law that leads to more and more regulations about what you can do inside your home. Sounds like big brother is here, doesn’t it? Enforcement of the ridiculous new law will probably require that surveillance cameras be installed facing the multi-unit apartments.

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  6. james says:

    What, shared vents between apartments? it’s been a few years since i was involved in such things, but shared vents between apartments were totally illegal long ago. it’s not cigarette smoke they are concerned with, it is orderless carbon monoxide from one burning unit killing everyone in the complex before they even know of the danger. there was one hotel out west that that happened!
    call your state and federal governments and report this and unless they are being paid off by the mafia, the complex will be shut down!

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  7. For Public Health says:

    The real truth is that everyone in shared housing also shares any cigarette smoking – including all of the kids, pregnant women, and their unborn babies. The “non-smoking” section of shared housing is in the same as the “non-peeing” section of public pools – it doesn’t exist.

    This is a smart and necessary law.

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  8. Theosebes Goodfellow says:

    In a wild-eyed pursuit of what I’m sure they perceived as the best intentions, the Sebastopol CC abrogated the rights of renters. What I think rankles many is the sheer hypocrisy involved in their decision, which is fine but what is more alarming is the blatant disregard for a renter’s rights in the supposed interests of possible and theoretical “children”.

    The fact that smoke from other sources goes completely unregulated, regardless of however dangerous or innocuous proves that the CC is pandering to a certain demographic in their constituency.

    Where pray tell is the evidence to back up the assertions proving the harmful efficacy of tobacco smoke THROUGH walls, closed doors and windows that justified such a piece of legislation? If they had this they would have force-fed this little law down the throats of home owners as well. But they didn’t so they picked on the skinny kid on the housing block, the renter. Where is the ban on smoke from BBQs, incense or even burning tires, not to mention the aforementioned cocaine crack, heroin, opium, crystal meth or kaht?

    And what is next in this PC crusade for the benefits of others? Maybe a ban on the consumption of saturated fats? Or will a simple tax of say $1 a gram suffice?

    However well intentioned they may have been in passing this ordinance, it is unfortunate that to vote for this the CC had to staple closed their copies of the US Constitution, stick it in their back pockets and sit down before voting in favor of this mess. Who said the road to hell isn’t paved with good intentions?

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  9. shawna says:

    @ Justamerican- I have no problems staying out of your home & your life. Can you promise me the same thing? If you can’t keep your addition out of my home & not effect my children….then i guess we’ll never see eye to oxygen tank….now will we?

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  10. shawna says:

    Wow!!!! I have a lot of “thumbs down”. I take it a lot of people don’t like it when someone reminds them that smoking is their choice & you don’t have the right to inflict it onto others. This law has been a long time coming. FINALLY!!!! Parents aren’t allowed to smoke in their vehicles when a child is present & now you’re not going to be allowed to cram your second hand smoke into the lungs of a non-smoker!! It’s really quite sad that a law had to be drawn up in the first place, I’d always hoped common sense would’ve kicked in & parents would’ve just naturally veered towards the behaviors that don’t hurt their children…..guess not! Hey, when the cancer does come & you’re pulling you oxygen tank down the side walk (@ a snails pace…..because that’s all your sick lungs can handle) you think of this article…..and, then explain to me how you weren’t hurting anyone & you’re rights were violated.

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  11. sheryl judge says:

    Yeah…how ’bout that Sebastopol…you gonna give up all the money you get from taxes on tobacco? Didn’t think so….hypocrites!!!

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  12. Maureen says:

    Wow…how are they going to police that?

    Anyway…I hope that the government stops giving them tax dollars derived from cigarette sales also then.

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  13. concerned for my health says:

    I’m a non-smoker now, but this is absurd. If you want your property to be non-smoking, fine, make it non-smoking by lease. I would hope that if they are going to take this step, the next one will be attached homes and condominiums, If they can invade a landlords property rights, they can certainly, and most probably will invade a homeowner’s

    While they’re at it, they better look at wood burning appliances. Let’s be fair- smoke is smoke. Be a good German.

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  14. Political Scientist says:

    JustAmerican: This day and age, in California, smokers are “the few”. If you don’t like the decision, start a smoker’s coalition and elect like-minded people to our Democratic system.

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  15. justamerican says:

    Once again the few trying to control what they should not be involved with. Stay out of my home and my life.

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  16. shawna says:

    Since they’re allowing the pot smokers to remain, then they should stick all of them next to each other that way the non pot smokers aren’t effected. Hell, now that the cities are taking away smokers ability to inflict their addictions onto others, I might move back into apts again!! Its’ really sad that everyone thinks its their right to harm another just because they chose to take on an addiction. No one forced you to smoke. Why do you think it’s okay to force others to deal with your bad choices? Would you like it if I threw my dog crap into your yard everyday? Or how about if I liked to play my music to the level of thumping your walls 24/7? Or had loud raging parties every night and disturbed your sleep? I bet you would complain to management that I was disturbing your peace. Well inconsiderate smokers, you nasty, trailer trash addiction causes my child’s asthma to flare up; but I bet that’s just fine with you. I’ll make sure to rely to him (while he’s having his breathing treatment @ the ER) that your happiness is more important than his ability to breathe. Given that you know that your smoke travels through shared vents…..just for a day you could choose to think about someone else…..most of you won’t though. No, instead you’ll pitch a 2yr old fit about how your rights are being violated!!! It’s about time!!!

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  17. shawna says:

    I hope all cities follow Sebastopol’s lead. They’re not saying you can’t smoke….they’re just saying you can’t inflict it onto others. The non-smokers have a right to a healthy quality of life. If ya’ll want to chain smoke till the cancer comes, go ahead, but at least now there is a law that says I can call the law on your selfish butt! Ha Ha!!!

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  18. akr says:

    Usually this is referred to as third-hand smoke, because that’s how little of it you’re getting.

    I approve of the bans on airplanes and in bars because the employees really do get exposed to a lot of secondhand smoke. Just having a smoking section doesn’t really help the employees.

    But yeah, this is over the top.

    And since I compared Vermont to Sebastopol (with Rohnert Park in the role of NH) in another post, I don’t think this would fly there, although in part it’s because people are more spread out. I haven’t checked to see what municipal ordinances might be out there though. Putney wouldn’t be a shocker, although it is also a town where an old friend was taught how to kill chickens at school (private school). This required an axe and a mechanism to hold the bird down; he became quite good at it. In Burlington there would be partisans on both sides. But mostly, people want to be left alone. The main problem is that if your family hasn’t lived in a community for more than 100 years, you’re regarded with a little suspicion. As it turned out, I had lucked into a town where ancestors had lived (Samuel F.B. Morse, to be specific; now I know why he invented Morse code, because Newfane in the 19th century would have been a long way from anywhere – the Morses who ran the country store were, by contrast, the “new” Morses, because it had only been about three generations of them.)

    And yes, I know I’m continuing to argue by anecdote. I’m working on it.

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  19. The Real Problem says:

    This is awesome. “You can smoke marijuana (or crack or PCP or peyote), but don’t smoke cigarettes in your apartment.”

    Only in Sebastopol.

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  20. Michael says:

    I assume the purpose of the ban was to prevent second-hand smoke from reaching the other tenants. But it’s okay for other tenants to live with the second-hand smoke of marijuana???

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