PLEASANT HILL -- City leaders on Monday rejected a proposal to extend the ban on smoking to the downtown and other shopping centers.
Mayor Michael Harris, who has pushed for rules prohibiting smoking in public spaces in Pleasant Hill, suggested the new restrictions. Harris said he has received many complaints from residents about secondhand smoke at restaurants with outdoor seating in the downtown.
"I'm simply asking the City Council to authorize staff to start investigating whether or not some type of a ban on smoking downtown or in other areas is reasonable and appropriate," Harris said before the meeting.
The motion failed on a 2-2 vote with Harris and Councilman Tim Flaherty in favor of drafting a new ordinance and councilmen Jack Weir and Ken Carlson opposed. By that time, Councilman David Durant had left the meeting to catch a plane.
Last month, Walnut Creek adopted a tough secondhand smoke ordinance that prohibits smoking in multiunit housing, all of downtown, recreational areas and in all public places. Concord recently expanded the no-smoking area around Todos Santos Plaza.
Weir said he appreciates the public health aspects of curtailing exposure to secondhand smoke but, "I'm sick and tired of government telling me what I can and can't do."
Several speakers questioned whether the city can enforce such a smoking ban. Police Chief John Moore said police have received calls about people smoking in prohibited areas, but by the time officers arrive the scofflaws are gone.
Despite Monday's vote, existing rules limit the places where people are allowed to light up in Pleasant Hill.
In 2006, the city banned smoking in and near city-owned facilities, and in most workplaces.
In an effort to reduce residents' exposure to secondhand smoke, in 2010 the City Council adopted rules prohibiting smoking at bus stops, ATMs and ticket lines, and at outdoor events on city property, except in areas designated by the city manager.
The biggest changes in that ordinance apply to housing with four or more units where smoking is prohibited in indoor and outdoor common areas, except those designated for smoking. By 2016, landlords must make 50 percent of existing apartment units nonsmoking.
Two years ago, the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District banned smoking in all its parks, open spaces, hiking trails, parking lots and other facilities. State law prohibits smoking within 25 feet of a playground.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking kills about 443,000 people per year in the United States. Of those, about 49,000 die from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Since 2009, several Contra Costa cities have adopted tough anti-smoking rules. Martinez became the first city in the county to ban smoking in most public places, including common areas in apartments and condominiums. Richmond adopted similar rules, but went even further by requiring that all multifamily housing units are completely smoke-free. Clayton, Concord and Pinole banned smoking in public parks and on public trails.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.