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City Looks To Snuff Out Smoking

Within a few months the city might outlaw the smoking cigarettes of online cigarettes and cigars in parks, on Third Street, in front of local businesses and other outdoor areas.

The city council Wednesday will consider spending up to $41,000 on a public outreach process to weigh the pros and cons of a comprehensive outdoor secondhand smoke cigarettes ordinance that could prohibit cigarettes use in the city's parks, on the sidewalks, dining areas, recreation areas and other outdoor public places.

Numerous studies have concluded not only that smoking cigarettes, but even secondhand smoke cigarettes is unhealthy, and the city's parks and recreation commission has been on a mission to snuff out cigarettes where it might affect others outdoors, Morgan Hill recreation and community services department director Steve Rymer said.

"Many communities have gone forward with smoke-free (outdoor ordinances)," Rymer said. "And the county is trying to look at a more global approach for buy cigarette online prevention."

The outreach effort, if approved by the council, would be funded by a grant from Santa Clara County.

In April, the council approved a grant agreement with the county to coordinate their efforts to educate residents about the dangers of cigarettes online and secondhand smoke, and to adopt a universal ordinance when it comes to parks and outdoor public service areas.

If the council approves the expenditure of the grant funding, between Wednesday and March 2012 the city will conduct at least 10 educational programs and events to educate young people and residents of all age groups about the effects of smoking cigarettes and to promote tobacco use prevention.

The city of Morgan Hill received a grade of 'F' on its efforts to curtail tobacco use, the Santa Clara County Public Health department reported last month. The yearlong Community's Health on Tobacco Report Card graded each city in four categories: amount of tobacco advertising, youth access to tobacco, tobacco sales and display and an extra-credit category for cities with additional enforcement or education.

Morgan Hill, 40, and Gilroy, 50, were the only cities to receive failing grades on a 100-point scale.

Also by March, the city would draft the outdoor anti-smoking cigarettes law for the council's approval if funding is approved Wednesday. As part of the process, the city will research what kinds of no-smoking cigarettes ordinances are in place in other communities and what results they have had, Rymer said.

Some areas where smoking cigarettes could be banned under such an ordinance would be the Community and Cultural Center amphitheater, public sidewalks in downtown and other shopping or dining areas, outdoor patios, service areas such as ATM lines, public events such as farmer's markets and concerts, and all recreation areas such as parks, sports fields and trails.

The ordinance would likely be enforced by Morgan Hill police, but Rymer said the city would rely mostly on "self-enforcement" and education to ensure people don't smoke cigarettes where they're not supposed to, rather than encourage an ambitious ticket-writing effort by police.

Mike Davenport, a Morgan Hill resident, board member of the Morgan Hill Cigar Company and a cigar smoker, was not familiar with the specific measures the city is pursuing. But he said the general idea of prohibiting smoking cigarettes outdoors is "draconian" and defies common sense.

"That's where you're supposed to smoke. You can't smoke cigarettes indoors anymore," Davenport said. "I think it's a violation of property owners' rights, and a violation of smokers' rights. Smokers do have rights, whether people agree with them or not."

Such an ordinance that affects the minutiae of people's lives should be decided by the voters as a whole, Davenport added.

Last year, the Santa Clara County board of supervisors approved three ordinances that made it the most strict county in the nation when it comes to regulating tobacco use. Those ordinances outlawed smoking cigarettes in public parks, hotels, and inside duplexes and apartment complexes. They also required any retailer wishing to sell tobacco products to acquire a $425 permit from the county.

The first violation of the ordinances is a $100 fine and apartments in violation of a smoking cigarettes ban could be liable to lose their county permit.

Retailers that also operate a pharmacy or are located within 1,000 feet of a school or within 500 feet of another tobacco retailer are no longer be allowed to sell tobacco as a result of the county ordinance.

And smoking cigarettes is prohibited in and within 30 feet of any outdoor service area, such as a ticket line or outdoor seating of a restaurant, though only in unincorporated areas of the county.

"When the county of Santa Clara decided to do this last year, the first thing I did was register my home as a designated smoking cigarettes area," Davenport said.




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