CONCORD -- Calling it an assault on their health, residents are pushing the City Council to extend its downtown ban on smoking to more city blocks and multiunit buildings.
"We have so many toxins already in our environment, why add another one in our home?" asks Cynthia Haning, a mother of two.
Concord first passed a ban in Todos Santos Plaza, and in 2011 expanded it to a 17-block area around the downtown park. The ban affects sidewalks and other public areas and private property accessible to the general public within that area.
But Tom Marx of Planned Parenthood, located at Pacheco and Grant streets, said the ban has pushed smokers to light up in front of his workplace. He and a host of others at a city meeting last month asked the council to extend the ban further, or make it citywide so the problem is not pushed elsewhere.
"More than often I walk out of the office and I'm immediately hit by wafts of cigarette smoke," said Marx. "They may be across the street but that doesn't stop the smoke from crossing the street."
Some Contra Costa cities have already adopted more restrictive ordinances or are considering them. For example, Contra Costa County supervisors passed an ordinance in 2010 banning smoking cigarettes and marijuana in new housing complexes in unincorporated parts of the county.
The county, in a move similar to Concord, is considering a ban on battery operated e-cigarettes everywhere traditional tobacco smoking is already prohibited.
Last month, the Walnut Creek City Council asked its staff to study an ordinance to restrict smoking in downtown and in apartment buildings and other multifamily homes.
A Concord resident said the downtown senior housing building where she lives became smoke free Jan. 1.
"There had been rumors people were going to move out. Nobody moved out," said Colette O'Keefe, who lives on Pacheco Street. "Those of us who are nonsmokers are protected from pollution in the ventilation system."
Haning and Edward Escobar said smoke from their neighbors home often seeps through a common wall into the family's bathroom, and their children's toy room.
They blame the secondhand smoke for worsening their 9-year-old son Aaron's respiratory problems. Aaron missed school for a week this past fall after he became ill with bronchitis, the couple said, noting it also effects their 11-year-old Hanna.
"It's just an assault on their health," said Edward Escobar.
The City Council, at the direction of Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister, recommended the city staff bring the issue to the council's committee on housing and economic development.
But not everyone on the council is enthusiastic with extending the ban.
"I think there comes a time when government needs to understand there are different lifestyles for people," said Mayor Dan Helix. "We have already pushed smokers out of the downtown. I'm not prepared to go and say Concord is going to be smoke free because some of our citizens smoke, and that's their decision."
"We have to do things reasonably and there has to be a certain amount of moderation," said Councilman Edi Birsan. "I don't know if there is really more of a public outcry to go that much further."
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.