Belmont council to crackdown on public smoking 

The first draft of an ordinance that could severely limit smoking in Belmont will go before the City Council for discussion on March 13.

In November, the council directed City Attorney Marc Zefferano to draft an ordinance to eliminate secondhand smoke in town, potentially including on city streets or other public areas. That draft is now ready, and Mayor Coralin Feierbach said it contains a list of options the council can pursue to achieve their goals of a smoke-free city — but would not say what those options are.

The discussion comes a month after the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors voted to ban smoking in county parks. A year ago, the county voted to ban smoking within 30 feet of county buildings and in common areas of apartment complexes.

The limits have drawn international attention, and much of it — Feierbach says — has been negative. She said she has been called a Nazi and a fascist in e-mails for potentially restricting the freedoms of residents.

"Calling it a nuisance is just another way of discriminating against smokers," said Robert Best, California coordinator of The Smoker’s Club, a smoker’s rights group. "They’rechasing us out of parks, but they don’t mind that our tax dollars are being used to maintain those parks."

Although she previously said she wants to eliminate smoking altogether in Belmont, Feierbach said Monday that she would rather see the city — following Dublin’s lead — treat smoking as a public nuisance like loud music.

"It would be like a noise ordinance — complaint driven — but in parks and other places like that, no smoking," she said.

Because of the attention the topic has received, Feierbach and Councilman Bill Dickenson said they hope the March 13 meeting, the first of several, will be a civil forum for residents to discuss the possibilities.

"This is a very sensitive topic, which is not just about smoking but about how much government should be involved in people’s lives," Dickenson said.

Because smoking is a legal activity for adults, Dickenson said the city has to be careful with how they handle any restrictions placed on the act. If they remove cigarette smoke from apartment complexes and outside restaurants, they may need to look at creating designated smoking areas as a trade off.

"If it was consensus to be very aggressive, we do need to respect the rights of people who are smoking," he said.

The draft ordinance will be discussed at the March 13 City Council meeting at 7:30 p.m. in council chambers, One Twin Pines Lane.

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