The Albany City Council voted for a smoke-free ordinance this week, barring people from lighting up on Solano Avenue and other outdoor public areas.
"The council believes that we have so much information about the dangers of second-hand smoke, that from time to time, the city needs to evaluate its regulations," said city administrator Beth Pollard. "It's been some time since the city has done that, so it's a matter of recognizing the health hazards and expanding the regulations to increase the protections to the public."
The council voted 4-1 on the first reading of the ordinance, with councilwoman Jewel Okawachi voting no.
"I'm a little bit concerned about taking away citizens' rights," Okawachi said, adding that people banned from smoking on Solano Avenue "can just go around the corner. It just increases smoking in front of some of the homes. That bothered me a great deal."
Okawachi added that she has not seen much smoking on Solano Avenue, and does not feel the ordinance is necessary.
The restriction on smoking on Solano Avenue includes an exception for outdoor bar areas where food is currently being served, such as at The Pub. The ordinance also prohibits smoking in parks and playgrounds and outside schools, and requires owners of multi-family housing to disclose to tenants in which units smoking is allowed and in which units smoking is not allowed.
Albany resident Ira Sharenow, who first pushed for the smoke-free ordinance, said he saw this as a good first step, but was not completely satisfied with the ordinance or with how the process was conducted.
"I'm happy that something got passed, but I'm very frustrated that city officials have not been very cooperative with me," Sharenow said. "A lot of things that I had proposed were never even considered. The council needs to take a look at what really needs to be in that ordinance."
Sharenow, who was an anti-tobacco activist in Wisconsin for many years, said the ordinance should have included some restrictions on smoking at beaches, and about cigarette butt litter, among various issues.
Still, others agreed with Okawachi that an ordinance, particularly the section regulating smoking on Solano Avenue, was unnecessary.
"I don't think there's a drastic problem on Solano Avenue with people smoking," said Brian Parsley, an Albany resident and former smoker who acknowledges the health hazards of second-hand smoke. "It's just a quick fix. It's another feel good ordinance that the city is passing and there's truly no way to really enforce this."
Pollard said she hopes "people will self-enforce and recognize that these are rules to benefit the community as a whole. We hope not to have to get into spending a lot of resources on enforcement. We hope people will take these in good faith and comply."
The ordinance will come before the council again for a second reading next month. If passed, it will go into effect in mid-June.
Reach staff writer Shelly Meron at 510-243-3578 or firstname.lastname@example.org