Smoking ban for restaurant patios in Sacramento to be debated

Published: Monday, Feb. 17, 2014 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 - 8:19 am

A debate over whether to ban smoking on restaurant and bar patios in Sacramento enters City Hall this week.

The City Council’s Law and Legislation Committee is scheduled Tuesday to discuss a potential ordinance that would restrict or prohibit smoking in outdoor areas attached to dining establishments and bars. The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the City Council Chamber, 915 I St.

Private discussions have been underway for months between restaurateurs, business interests, health advocates and Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents the central city and has been the driving force behind those talks.

Hansen said he is hopeful the council’s legislative committee will provide city staffers with options for an ordinance. Any new law regulating smoking in the city likely would not be approved by the full City Council for months.

“From my perspective, I think we can get something done that improves public health while respecting that restaurants have business needs as well,” Hansen said.

While Hansen said it was too early to say whether he prefers a full ban on smoking at restaurants and bars, “it’s about time Sacramento prioritized public health, he said.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people who think it would be meaningful and that they would eat out more often if they went there knowing there wouldn’t be smoking,” Hansen said.

Those involved in the discussions have also raised the possibility of limiting smoking on restaurant and bar patios with exceptions, including allowing smoking at certain times of day or in designated areas. Some restaurants already limit smoking in outdoor seating areas.

According to a list compiled by the American Lung Association in California, 73 cities in the state prohibit smoking in all outdoor dining areas; 42 restrict outdoor smoking with some exceptions.

Davis is the only city in the Sacramento region that prohibits smoking in outdoor dining areas, according to the list. Most of the cities with regulations are in the Bay Area or Southern California.

Tim Gibbs, a senior director of government relations for the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, said his organization is advocating a full ban in Sacramento. He said he expects roughly 20 health advocates to attend Tuesday’s meeting.

“We think the city should pass a strong ordinance that protects both workers and patrons,” Gibbs said.

Michael Ault, the executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, said a balance should be sought between the health effects of smoking and the potential financial impacts a ban could have on businesses.

“Nobody discounts the public health element,” Ault said. “But we hope to come up with something that allows restaurants to manage their own businesses and not another example of a regulation that limits those individual businesses.”

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at

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