Sonoma County is considering banning smoking in apartments and condominiums, on county-owned property, in parks, campgrounds and beaches and at many other outdoor public and private areas where people gather.
The ordinance, which seeks to reduce the effects of second hand smoke, would affect all areas of the county outside city limits and prohibit smoking at public events such as fairs, festivals and parades, outdoor dining areas and service areas such as ATMs, bank teller windows, telephones, ticket lines, bus stops and taxi stands.
"There is no safe level of exposure to second hand smoke," said Lynn Walton, manager of the Healthy Communities section of the Sonoma County Public Health Division.
"It is a toxic chemical, a Class-A carcinogen. That's why the (proposed) ordinance has the strong protections and provisions that it does."
The new rules, if approved by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, would represent some of the strongest smoking restrictions in the county, on par with restrictions in Sebastopol and Rohnert Park.
Sonoma County's 1994 smoking ordinance received an F as an overall tobacco-control grade from the American Lung Association.
At the time, the Sonoma County ordinance was similar to rules adopted in every city or town — except for Windsor and Cloverdale. It bans smoking in public workplaces and public areas.
In late 1994, after voters defeated a state initiative backed by Phillip Morris that sought to rein in smoking bans, a state-wide restriction on workplace and restaurant smoking took effect on Jan. 1, 1995. Three years later the state banned smoking in bars.
"We have essentially been denying 85 percent of the population that doesn't smoke the right to breathe clean air in public places and in their own homes too," said 3rd District Supervisor Shirlee Zane.
Zane said the proposed changes to the smoking ordinance are long overdue. The impact on the county administration complex in Santa Rosa, where 3,500 people work, would be significant, she said.