Healdsburg moves to ban smoking in apartments, hotels

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Healdsburg is set to join all but one of the other Sonoma County cities in banning smoking in hotel rooms and apartment complexes.

Council members Monday voted unanimously to direct staff to update an ordinance that further limits indoor and outdoor smoking, including vaping, in designated temporary and permanent housing. The council had made improving protections against secondhand smoke throughout the city a goal last year and now has targeted perceived gaps to get there.

The existing ordinance does not include smoking bans in apartment communities and their associated common areas, and also permits use of tobacco products in 50 percent of rooms if a hotel permits it. The new rules would prohibit both.

Only Cloverdale does not have similar rules banning smoking within Sonoma County. And both the city of Sonoma and unincorporated areas of the county were the last to pass stepped-up guidelines in 2016, helping each earn A scores from the American Lung Association in its annual tobacco control report card for the state.

“We would very much ask you to adopt this,” Debbie Mason, CEO of the Healthcare Foundation of Northern Sonoma County, told the Healdsburg council Monday. “We’d like to see Healdsburg take the lead on being a healthier community where we can, and this is a great one.”

In fact, Healdsburg has long been a leader in policies designed to curb tobacco use. It was one of the first California cities to restrict smoking indoors at restaurants and in many outdoor public areas. In 2014, it also became a trailblazer in the state by prohibiting tobacco sales to anyone under the age of 21.

Where the small city has lagged behind, however, is in offering smoke-free housing. Healdsburg has consistently received poor grades concerning housing from the lung association, including a D — the lowest score in the category in the county — the past two years. Overall, the city earned a B grade in the 2018 and 2019 reports.

“Healdsburg has always been ahead in smoking policies,” said Dr. Brad Drexler, a local gynecologist. “And we’re way behind, you can see, on public health for multifamily housing. Tons of Fs in the tobacco reports.”

At the council’s direction, city staff also will amend its rules to comply with state prohibitions against smoking at bars and enclosed work areas. If adopted by the council, the new city guidelines would be phased in over the course of a year.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin Fixler at 707-521-5336 or kevin.fixler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @kfixler.

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