SMOKING IN PUBLIC would no longer beallowed in Belmont, which plans toban the practice.
SMOKING IN PUBLIC would no longer be allowed in Belmont, which plans to ban the practice. (RON LEWIS - Staff)
BELMONT — Inside the spacious, new wood-paneled chambers of Belmont's city council, where professional lobbyists have little influence, council members Tuesday night forged ahead with ambitions to write the most stringent anti-smoking law nationwide.

The council's request to ban smoking in all public places and multiunit dwellings is now in the hands of the city attorney, who will draft an ordinance that the council will be asked to approve. If passed, residents will be allowed to smoke only inside detached, single-unit homes. The ordinance is expected to become law in January or February, said City Councilman Dave Warden.

Belmont's move follows other city ordinances in California that tightly restrict smoking, including new laws in Dublin and Calabasas declaring smoking a public nuisance. Marin County on Tuesday also passed an ordinance banning smoking in most public areas in unincorporated Marin.

While the proposed law had not been drafted and details are still under discussion, the ordinance intends to protect citizens from unwanted exposure to tobacco smoke, and give them legal recourse to pursue a remedy if a problem from secondhand smoke persists.

"This is a way to empower nonsmoking people who are suffering under non-consensual secondhand smoke," said Becky Husmann, a San Jose resident advocating tougher secondhand smoking laws in Belmont.

What the proposed law isn't, advocates say, is another way to dole out tickets to citizens enjoying a smoke in the park or on their apartment balcony.


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In addition to the smoking ban, the proposed Belmont ordinance would also declare secondhand smoke a public nuisance. That would leave smokers in single-family homes — which would be the only legal refuge for smokers — vulnerable to lawsuits from neighbors who object to tobacco smoke habitually drifting onto their properties.

"The distinction they're making here," she said, "is that if you're wealthy enough to own your own home, you can smoke."

"The bottom line is a number of people from that generation continue to smoke," Lambert said. "Does that mean they should be evicted? I think not."

However, Licavoli, with Breathe California, said drifting smoke is a major source of complaints from residents of multi-unit housing complexes.

"Those people don't have a choice of where they live either," she said. "So it's about making it a level playing field and healthy for everybody."

Contact Suzanne Bohan at (650) 348-4324 or sbohan@angnewspapers.com.