Belmont aims to outlaw smoking 

Neighbors and residents who produce secondhand smoke may soon be considered a nuisance in Belmont, similar to those who produce loud noise with musical instruments or construction equipment.

Tuesday was the first official public discussion on a draft secondhand smoke ordinance to cut down on wafting carcinogens, a move that has drawn international attention to Belmont.

The City Council is examining options ranging from a broad ban on smoking around town and a public nuisance issue dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Serena Chen, policy director for the American Lung Association’s Greater Bay Area chapter, said she has been following the issue since it was first brought up by a Bonnie Brae Terrace resident. Chen said the public limits on smoking are nothing new, but proposed expansions, especially in housing complexes, could spark a sea change in local policy.

Mayor Coralin Feierbach said the city is taking many cues from Dublin and Calabasas, California towns that have passed ordinances limiting smoke in the last year.

"To me, it should be like a noise ordinance, if people complain, something happens," Feierbach said.

Dublin and Calabasas both treat secondhand smoke as a public nuisance, but use drastically different approaches toward enforcement.

Dublin specifically states in its ordinance — approved Sept. 5 — that the city would not take any steps for enforcement. Instead, residents are encouraged to go to court over the issue, using the nuisance label as grounds for lawsuits, according to Roger Bradley, administrative analyst for the city of Dublin.

To date, there have been no complaints logged and the city has only received three calls regarding the ordinance.

Calabasas leaves the enforcement up to residents and business owners and restricts smoking in public places where people can be reasonably expected to congregate, city spokesman Michael Hafken said.

In the year since it went into effect, only one citation for $100 has been written.

"[The ordinance has] been doing what it was meant to do, which is to prevent secondhand smoke exposure to residents," Hafken said.

Feierbach said she wants to strike a balance between the two, with more enforcement than Dublin, but with more defined boundaries than Calabasas. Once all public input has been gathered, she hopes to have the ordinance up for a vote as soon as possible.

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