Contra Costa Times
April 24, 2015
By Jennifer Modenessi
ORINDA -- Lawmakers locally are crafting tough new rules restricting where smokers can light up.
City leaders agreed this week to develop an ordinance to stamp out smoking in outdoor dining areas and public events, and create smoke-free housing in existing apartments and condominiums.
If approved, the ordinance would restrict smoking in areas beyond those regulated by state law including most workplaces, inside residential multiunit common areas and within 25 feet of playgrounds. State law also prohibits smoking in schools, foster homes and day care facilities.
Currently, Orinda only ban smoking in parks, nature areas and trails. The city's municipal code also forbids advertising and promoting tobacco products to minors. But that's where current restrictions end.
Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, who suggested updating the city's existing smoking laws in February, said he hopes to see the smoking ban extended to dining areas, public events and sidewalks.
"We want to do everything we can to ensure the health of our citizens," he said.
According to the American Lung Association in California, Orinda is one of eight Contra Costa cities with the worst tobacco control. The poor ratings come despite Lamorinda having a very low prevalence of smokers, said Serena Chen, an advocacy director for the Association.
Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, El Cerrito and Richmond have all adopted comprehensive smoking ordinances.
Orinda's proposed guidelines are welcome news to the Association, which has advocated for clean, smoke-free air for more than a century.
"We are glad to see that Orinda is looking at how they can better protect residents and visitors," Chen said.
At least one city leader is cautioning against too much regulation. Councilwoman Eve Phillips questioned whether the city should include electronic cigarettes in its ordinance.
"The second hand smoking issue, at least from the data I've seen, does not seem to be nearly as big of an issue with electronic cigarettes as with the traditional ones that produce smoke," Phillips said.
A study last year by the University of Southern California found that despite containing less carcinogenic material than regular cigarettes, secondhand smoke from e-cigarettes has increased levels of certain toxic metals, including chromium and nickel.
City Manager Janet Keeter said the ordinance could be ready for council consideration in an couple of months.