WALNUT CREEK (CBS SF) – Walnut Creek city leaders have taken the first official step toward a ban on smoking in most of the city’s downtown and in and around apartment buildings.

The council voted four to one at its meeting Tuesday night to approve the first reading of an amended ordinance that cracks down on secondhand smoke in public areas.

A second reading and final vote on the ordinance is set for next month, and the ban is expected go into effect 90 days afterward, city officials said.

The ordinance will ban smoking throughout downtown, at city parks, open spaces, public events and commercial areas as well as patios and common areas at apartment and condominium buildings.

Once the ordinance takes effect, signs will be posted throughout the downtown area and business owners or employers at buildings in those areas will be required to post “no smoking” signs, according to city documents.

The signs will also include the number of a hotline that people will be encouraged to use to report smokers in prohibited areas.

Smokers who violate the ordinance could also face fines starting at $100, according to a city staff report.

Many Walnut Creek residents say they have long wanted a smoking ban in their town.

During a council meeting on the draft ordinance in June, some residents voiced their concerns about the difficulty of escaping secondhand smoke in multi-family residential buildings where smoking is allowed.

Others, like Rob Cherep, owner of Casa Belicoso Cigar Lounge on North Main Street, expressed their opposition to a ban.

Matt Huffaker, assistant to Walnut Creek’s city manager, said the city conducted outreach over the past several months to gauge interest in a smoking ban among residents, employers and property owners.

“By and large, the feedback was very supportive of the proposed restrictions,” he said.

The ordinance falls under a city program adopted last year that lists “community health and well-being” as a key priority, Huffaker said.


(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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