Less than a month after the Mountain View City Council passed its controversial draconian anti-smoking ordinance which takes effect in May, the Sunnyvale City Council considered a very similar ordinance this past Tuesday (March 20th).
Both sides were very well represented at the meeting which lasted until nearly midnight. The Sunnyvale City Council appeared to be very well informed about the aspects of the changes to the ordinance itself and the majority of their questions were to supporters and opponents of the ban regarding health and safety issues as well as private property and individual rights.
Supporters of the ban told stories of relatives that had died as a result of smoking related illnesses, quoted surgeon general statistics, and brought in jars filled with thousands of cigarette butts that they said had been collected in the City's public parks.
Opponents to the ban , which included many business owners on Murphy Avenue, pointed out that the businesses on Murphy Ave were just starting to recover after the redevelopment of the streets there. All the bars there have clientele from 10% to 50% that are smokers, and all contended that their businesses would be greatly harmed should the patio smoking ban pass. Other opponents, including myself, pointed out that while the smoking related deaths were regrettable, everyone that smokes chooses to do so.
I gave the example of my own Grandmother who died from a smoking related illness, but while she was alive, threw parties every week and also drank. In other words, she enjoyed her life to the fullest! I told the Council that I intended to do the same and that no one has a right to tell me how to live my life.
A Stanford University study was also provide which showed that exposure to second hand smoke in an outdoor setting has minimal to no effect unless you are sitting less than a foot away or there is heavy smoke in the area. With a strong wind the smoke can reach up to about 6 1/2 feet.
I also collected 110 signatures in one week from patrons, employees, and owners of the affected businesses. Although the city had its own online survey of over 460 people, I pointed out that there was no way to know if the people filing out the online survey had even ever visited the affected businesses.
The Sunnyvale City Council made a balanced decision that should have been very satisfactory to both sides. They decided to ban smoking in children's areas and in public parks and rejected the idea of banning smoking on business patios and golf courses.
This solution, I believe would have worked perfectly well in Mountain View also. It will be interesting to see in the next few months how much business Castro Street will lose to Murphy avenue. If this happens, we will all know why.
Old Mountain View