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Berkeley smoking ban to begin in November

By Matthew Artz Daily Planet Staff
Wednesday October 16, 2002


City Council officially slammed the door Tuesday on smokers who park themselves outside the doorways of public buildings. 

Council unanimously passed the second reading of the Smokefree Doorways ordinance, which means that beginning Nov. 14 smoking will be prohibited within 20 feet of entrances and air intake vents to Berkeley shops and office buildings. 

Smokers will still be permitted to walk past buildings with a lit cigarette, but will not be able stop within 20 feet of a door or vent. 

The law requires building managers to post city-made decals informing smokers of the new restrictions. 

A $100 fine can be imposed on a business that does not post the sign or a smoker who does not obey the law. 

Some smokers were understandably upset. 

“I think 20 feet puts me in the street,” said downtown smoker Josh Brewer last week.  

But Marcia Brown-Machen, director of the city’s Tobacco Prevention Program, said that she and the city attorney’s office reviewed similar ordinances from other California cities and the 20-foot limit is fair. 

She added that strict distance requirements are needed because cigarette smoke puffed by smokers outside offices and shops is sucked back indoors. 

“People walking through entrances where smokers are huddled feel like they are walking through a carton of toxins,” she said. 

The law will not be aggressively enforced, Brown-Machen said.  

“We’re relying on the power of the signs,” she said, noting that enforcement officials would not be deployed unless an offender was the subject of repeat complaints. 

The new smoking ban strengthens Berkeley’s already tough nicotine laws. All city-owned buildings prohibit smoking within 15 feet of doorways, and smoking is prohibited at outdoor work sites and restaurant patios.