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Frequently Asked Questions: Smoking and Secondhand Smoke Ordinance

impact Sonoma

In 2011 the Board of Supervisors protected 100% of multi-unit residences, all county-owned property, and certain public places in unincorporated Sonoma County from secondhand smoke. In 2014 the prohibition of e-cigarettes in public places was added to the ordinance.

What is the goal of the Smoking and Secondhand Smoke ordinance?

The goal of the Smoking and Secondhand Smoke ordinance is to improve the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Sonoma County by promoting a healthy, smoke-free environment, eliminating the hazards of secondhand smoke and vapor in public places and secondhand smoke in multi-unit housing, decreasing healthcare costs, and reinforcing healthy lifestyles.

What areas are covered by the Smoking and Secondhand Smoke ordinance?

All County-owned property, including parks and recreational areas.

Unincorporated areas of the County: enclosed places of employment, as well as units and common areas of multi-unit housing. Unenclosed areas used for recreation, dining or drinking, and public events, as well as entryways and service areas (such as ATM lines, ticket lines, and bus stops.)

There are provisions for the establishment of designated smoking areas in certain circumstances.

How is the ordinance be enforced?

There are a variety of enforcement responsibilities outlined in the ordinance, including assigning owners, managers, operators or employers of establishments covered in the ordinance the responsibility of informing violators about any smoking restrictions.

Laws regulating smoking are largely self-enforcing. Reports from cities and counties, including those in Sonoma County, show proper signage and public education are effective in implementing smoke-free ordinances.

Enforcement penalties are defined as: 1) a first violation - $100 fine, 2) a second violation - $200 fine, 3) $500 fine for each additional violation.

Whom do I contact if I have questions regarding this ordinance?

Contact the Department of Health Services, Public Health Division at (707) 565-6680 or by web form.

Why regulate smoking and secondhand smoke outdoors and in multi-unit housing?

Smoking and secondhand smoke (SHS) are harmful to the health of smokers and non- smokers. SHS exposure increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and makes childhood asthma worse.

Secondhand smoke exposure is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. The California Air Resources Board declared SHS smoke to be a “toxic air contaminant,” putting it in the same classification as diesel exhaust, benzene, and arsenic.

The United States Surgeon General has concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke and neither separating smokers from nonsmokers nor installing ventilation systems eliminates exposure to secondhand smoke.

Stanford University’s 2007 outdoor SHS air measurement studies concluded: 1) toxins near an outdoor smoker can be ten times higher than the exhaust from nearby truck and car traffic, and; 2) smoke from multiple smokers can travel 50 feet or more and, even at that distance, can exceed U.S. EPA air quality standards.

As the scientific evidence of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke continues to rise, citizens are turning to their elected officials for protection in outdoor areas and multi-unit housing areas. Nonsmokers who live in multi-unit dwellings can be exposed to neighbors’ secondhand smoke.

This ordinance may help motivate more smokers to quit. The California Smokers’ Helpline research has shown that policies restricting tobacco use can help to support people who smoke and want to quit. The County will assist smokers who wish to become smoke-free through a public information campaign and cessation referrals.

What has prompted interest in expanding the Sonoma County Smoking and Secondhand Smoke ordinance?

The ordinance arose out of concerns from constituents, who look to their county government to acknowledge SHS exposure as a serious health risk and to adopt policies to protect public health.

Over eighty-five percent (85%) of Sonoma County residents choose not to smoke. Yet, many residents are subjected to SHS exposure in outdoor areas such as entryways, service areas, and recreation areas.

Residents have come forward to voice their concerns about SHS exposure in letters to local newspapers, at City Council meetings, and through complaints to the Sonoma County Department of Health Services and local health agencies.

The ordinance is consistent with recent actions by local municipal governments throughout California and within Sonoma County that have updated their smoke-free policies to reflect recent scientific reports, as well as environmental and fire safety practices.

Most Sonoma County cities have passed ordinances regulating outdoor smoking (all but Cloverdale and Sonoma); All cities except Cloverdale, and Sonoma have also passed smoking regulations for multi-unit housing.