The City of Claremont recently passed a preliminary proposal for a new ordinance that would ban smoking in certain public areas in the city. The proposal comes after a much more extensive proposal to ban smoking in Claremont, which was rejected by the Claremont City Council last spring.
The final vote on the proposal is scheduled for Dec. 14, at which time the ordinance will likely pass, since it has already passed the preliminary vote. Assuming the new smoking ordinance is passed this month, citizens will no longer be permitted to smoke in “plaza areas,” come January.
The areas in question have been defined by City Manager Jeff Parker as “public squares or areas designed as a gathering places for the public and designated by the City of Claremont as public plazas and which are owned, managed and controlled by the city.”
This would include the square in Claremont Village, a small area near the Claremont Depot, and the space that houses ceramic statues on the second floor of the parking garage off of First Street. However, the ordinance does not include smoking on private property, on public walkways, and on streets.
Smoking in the designated areas would result in a city fine.
Claremont Mayor Linda Elderkin revived the proposal after the more extensive ordinance was rejected last spring.
Supporters of the ordinance claim that the passage will limit the harmful effects of secondhand smoke. Although the area in question, the Village Plaza, which is surrounded by shops and restaurants, is relatively small, community members worry about the effects cigarette smoke might have on their health even in these areas.
Upon learning of the ban, Hannah McConnell PO ’12 expressed her support.
“I think that the smoking ban in public places in the village is a great idea,” she said. “There is no need for people to be exacerbating SoCal air pollution with exhalations of cigarette smoke.”
As a passionate runner who enjoys spending time outdoors, McConnell said that, for a runner, the less polluted the air, the better.
City Commissioner Susan Bernasso, active in numerous non-profit organizations in the community, as well as volunteer at the Pomona Valley Hospital and the Claremont chapter of the American Red Cross, described the harm one cigarette might inflict upon numerous people.
“If there’s a concert in the plaza and I’m standing behind someone who lights up a cigarette, that one cigarette is affecting a lot of people’s health,” she said.
The proposition has been described by opponents as a “feel-good” ordinance akin to complaints against allergens. However, in Bernasso’s view, it is upholding an individual’s basic right to health.
“This is a carcinogen,” she said. “Researchers have found that 100,000 people die each year from secondhand smoke.”
Bernasso and other supporters of the ban look forward to the “inevitable” time when “wisdom and health will prevail.”
Meanwhile, opponents of the ordinance believe that the ban will circumvent individual freedom. A number of residents of Claremont attended the council meeting in which the proposal was discussed. Claremont resident Doug Lions cited the conflict of liberty and security, quoting the founding father Benjamin Franklin in his belief that “those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.”
“I don’t need to be a smoker to recognize the danger of the incremental usurpation of just one more liberty,” Lions said. “If they’re gonna take away this particular liberty, what’s to prevent them from taking away viability of something I do?”
Some members of the City Council voiced concerns about the feasibility of the proposed ordinance. City Council member Corey Calaycay described the proposal as a “petty ordinance” that ultimately “bogs down the books.” As the ordinance is written, people will not be permitted to smoke within the designated zone of the plaza, but by federal law are still permitted to light up on private property, which includes the patio areas of each restaurant surrounding the “no-smoking” area.
“We’re going to be spending a lot of money—$400 on signs alone—and that’s just the monetary cost,” Calaycay said. “That doesn’t account for the effects the ordinance will have on delays in more important calls at the police department and that sort of thing.”
“It turns into a he-said-she-said game, and really, if you’re standing on the edge of the zone, you can just move outside,” Calaycay added.
If the ordinance is approved on Dec. 14, it will go into effect mid-January.