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Concord City Council Approves Downtown Smoking Ban

Updated at 10 a.m.: Smoking in public areas in a 17-block radius around Todos Santos Plaza will soon be illegal.

The Concord City Council voted Tuesday to ban smoking in areas accessible to the general public within a 17-block radius of Todos Santos Plaza.

Those caught smoking in general public access spaces within the area known as "Parking Assessment District No. 60," can soon expect to be cited for a finable infraction, should they be caught.

The ban comes two years after downtown business and property owners complained of the nuisance caused by cigarette-smoke.

A total of around 150 people attended the Tuesday night meeting where a score of speakers voiced both support and opposition of the ban.

"We've been asked by our patrons over and over to shut the door," said Linda Swartz, Cuba Linda's executive chef and owner. "... that drives away business. We look like we're closed; we look unwelcoming. That hurts me financially."

Swartz said she "would love" to place an outside dining area in front of the four-month old restaurant, but can't, since "... nobody will sit there with all the smoke coming in their face ..."

While a majority of speakers were in support of the ban, those opposing made sure to voice concerns:

"There's bigger things to worry about, Mayor ..." said Landon Hathaway, a bar tender at Vinnie's Bar & Grill. "We've been chasing off the same bums for the last seven years, drinking beers ... in front of the bar and behind the bar ... and now you guys are chasing off paying customers who are trying to smoke a cigarette? ..."

Hathaway said he agrees with current laws that regulate smoking inside, but banning smoking in front of the bar would not only drive away business, but lead to other potential issues.

In addressing Concord resident Babs Gomez's concern of what kind of burden the smoking ban would place on Concord Police, Chief Guy Swanger explained he expects the public to help.

"The best way to probably enforce it would begin with education," said Swanger.

The Chief said he has noticed business owners addressing smoking outside of their businesses and "proactive work" by waiters, waitresses and coffee shop workers that will pave the way towards getting the public to comply with the ordinance. 

A warning process would take place after that, Swanger explained, but "people would eventually get to self-police."

As far as civil disobedience goes, Swanger said there are already officers responsible for patrolling the downtown area who would issue citations.

The initial fine would cost up to $100, while a second would cost no more than $200; each additional fine could cost up to $500, according to the unanimously approved ordinance.

The council's ban comes in addition to a 2009 smoking ban that made it illegal to smoke in the city's parks, trails and open spaces.

The ban does not impact private areas the general public has no access to.

SavEcig September 28, 2011 at 11:53 PM
There is an easy way for smokers to beat the ban: Switch to electronic cigarettes. No smoke, no tar, no second hand smoke. http://www.savecig.com
Mike Morgan September 30, 2011 at 12:57 AM
Agree w/ SavEcig that electronic cigarettes are increasingly popular and accepted now. I've tried several brands to avoid odor, save money and enjoy almost anywhere, so see www.ecigwerks.blogspot.com for more.
angel wire September 30, 2011 at 04:23 PM
Downtown businesses need the right to restrict smoking withing 50 feet of their front doors. If "area bumbs" are the main problem then get restraining orders on specific people. Concord Police can not be baby sitters! There's not enough money to hire more smoke patrol! More laws on the books?
Jonik September 30, 2011 at 06:07 PM
This is an example of government officials, all probably linked to under-the-radar parts of the cigarette cartel, working to further scapegoat the public domain tobacco plant and the uninformed, unprotected victims of that cartel. The officials, hoping to look as if they are concerned about health, do or say nothing about... - How any number of brands may not contain a shred of tobacco, the supposed target of outrage and law, - How typical cigarettes are highly contaminated with residues of many pesticides, dioxin-producing chlorine substances, any number of untested, often toxic and cancer-causing non-tobacco additives, and even radiation from the still legal use of certain phosphate fertilizers, - How no studies about tobacco itself, without adulterants, have yet to be presented in order to justify any public interest prohibitions of tobacco use...except in fire zones, etc. A site called "Fauxbacco" has plenty of reference material about that. Officials are either grossly inexpert on the topic, or are working with members of the cigarette cartel (incl. insurers & investors) to cover up many decades of secret poisoning of, and experimentation upon, deceived consumers. It was officials like this who, for the sake of "sin taxes", campaign gifts, and personal investments, permitted and helped create the Frankenstein monster of Typical Cigarettes, and now they are saying "bad monster" to their own creation. This is gross hypocrisy, and evasion of liabilities.
srl99 July 15, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Does this mean no smokin at bart station bus stop?

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