Sonoma eyes smoking ban on Plaza

  • Musician with Derailed Freight Train, Damian Cohn, takes a smoking break in the Sonoma Plaza on Tuesday, March 11, 2014. The City of Sonoma is considering a smoking ban on the historic plaza. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Prodded by a concerned citizen and a grade of F on an American Lung Association report card of its efforts to restrict secondhand smoke, Sonoma is considering banning smoking in its historic Plaza.

As Mayor Tom Rouse envisions it, the prohibition would extend to multi-unit housing complexes in the city of nearly 11,000 inhabitants.

"It's like someone spilling a beer on me," Rouse said about secondhand smoke. "That wouldn't be tolerated. Why would this be tolerated?"

Rouse, who owns several Sonoma condominiums where he has prohibited smoking from the sidewalk in, brought the idea to the City Council last week. The council voted 4-1 to ask city staff to study the issue, with David Cook opposed.

"I've always thought that we shouldn't have too much government restriction and that would be an example of that," Cook said this week.

Paul Spadaro is conflicted. A former heavy smoker, he owns the popular Steiner's Tavern on the Plaza's west side, and his patrons frequently gather on the sidewalk to smoke.

"From a health standpoint, I wish they'd get rid of (cigarettes) altogether. I think it's a filthy habit and it's bad for the environment, the butts and all of that," he said.

"But as an entrepreneur who's in the bar business, I want my customers to be as comfortable as possible, and smoking is part of that," Spadaro said. "I'm on the fence, to be honest."

The American Lung Association's January report on tobacco control in California cities and counties put Sonoma among 61 percent of all communities statewide with an F grade — along with Cloverdale and Cotati in Sonoma County.

Rohnert Park, Sebastopol and Sonoma County each won a B. And Petaluma moved up to a B from a D, recognition of its new ban on smoking in apartments and other multi-unit housing complexes. Santa Rosa, Windsor and Healdsburg got D's.

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