Should smoking in front of the entrances of businesses be illegal in Lodi? Should exceptions be made for wine tasting rooms, bars and restaurants? How would such regulations be enforced?
These issues and others will be discussed with the public in the coming weeks as the Lodi City Council looks to adopt a smoking ordinance that could limit where people are allowed to smoke in public.
Symbolizing how controversial the issue could be amongst citizens, council members found themselves at odds with each other on the best way to approach an ordinance. Council members JoAnne Mounce and Alan Nakanishi favored less stringent regulation, while Larry Hansen pushed for a more aggressive ordinance.
"We should make city ordinances the same as the state law for entrances," said Hansen. "We need an ordinance that has some teeth in it."
Nakanishi and Mounce countered that they did not want to create a nanny-state environment with burdensome regulations. Mounce would be in favor of an ordinance that would regulate smoking in front of entrances, but doesn't want to expand much beyond that. Nakanishi said a comprehensive ordinance could impinge on too many freedoms.
"I want to help, but where do we stop?" said Nakanishi. "If a guy is barbecuing and someone doesn't like that smoke, do we say, 'Hey, let's make a law'?"
The issue surfaced after former Lodi mayor Randy Snider took issue with people regularly smoking outside near a shop and asked Mayor Bob Johnson if there are any rules preventing people from smoking in front of private businesses.
State law already prohibits smokers from lighting up within 20 feet of a public building, but Lodi has no regulations for private businesses.
Many California cities have ordinances that regulate smoking in public places. Loma Linda and El Cajon do not allow smoking in any public places. In those cities, smoking is outlawed at public events like concerts, recreation areas, sidewalks, worksites and service areas like bus stops.
When it comes to enforcing any ordinance, City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said citations could be written in some cases, but it would be basically up to individuals to enforce it.
"It's a societal pressure more than anything," he said. "Much of it is self-imposed."
People don't smoke in or in front of state buildings because everyone knows it's illegal, Schwabauer said. While police could be forced to issue some citations at the start of the ordinance, it wouldn't likely be a call authorities would need to respond to on a regular basis.
Ed Miller, a Lodi resident who sat in on the meeting, said he is suffering from cancer related to smoking but doesn't want to see the council adopt a strict ordinance. Many people who fight the presence of cigarettes are more upset by the smell of tobacco smoke than anything, he said.
"Cigarettes are still legal," he said. "If there is such a problem with them, why are they still legal?"
Snider said some of the most passionate anti-smoking advocates are former smokers who beat their addiction. He expects the issue to be hotly debated, but said he hopes the council pushes for a comprehensive ordinance. When the City Council passed a smoking ordinance in 1990 that was later approved by voters, it helped Lodi set the trend for the rest of the state, Snider said. It prohibited smoking in most public places, except for hotel rooms, restaurants, private offices, private residences and retail tobacco stores.
"When we passed the first comprehensive ordinance, you would've thought it was the end of the world," Snider said. "People were saying that this isn't communist Russia and we were going to be taking officers away from arresting real criminals, but everything turned out fine."
Using a sample ordinance from the Public Health Institute as its model, the council and the community will look to find the solution that makes the most sense for Lodi, said Schwabauer. The institute's model is a comprehensive list of bans and regulations. The nonprofit institute promotes health and well-being and is one of the largest public health organizations in the country.
No date has yet been set for the public workshops on the issue.
Contact reporter Jordan Guinn at firstname.lastname@example.org.