New Anti-smoking Rules Earn Pleasant Hill A Passing Grade From Health Group

Tougher anti-smoking cigarettes rules the council adopted last year helped Pleasant Hill earn a passing grade for its efforts to control cigarettes from the American Lung Association.

In two years, the city boosted its grade from an "F" to a "C".

Next year, Pleasant Hill will likely receive a "B" now that the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District board has banned smoking cigarettes in recreation areas, said Serena Chen, policy director for American Lung Association in California.

Although state law prohibits smoking cigarettes within 25 feet of a playground, Chen said the law has been difficult to enforce and she has seen few playgrounds with no smoking cigarettes signs posted. Since cigarette smoke cigarettes is heavier than the air, it tends to hover at nose level, even outdoors, she said.

"The smoke-free parks piece is very important," Chen added.

The new rules ban smoking cigarettes in all of the recreation district's parks, open spaces, hiking trails, parking lots and other facilities. In addition to protecting park visitors from cheap smokes smoke, the board believes the ban will reduce fire risk and litter.

"Pleasant Hill has done a very good job relative to the other cities in Contra Costa County," Chen said, noting that most cities in the county received a grade of "F."

"You've got to say a "C" is better than an "F" and they worked hard at it."

In 2006, Pleasant Hill banned smoking cigarettes in and near city-owned facilities, and in most workplaces. In an effort to reduce residents' exposure to secondhand smoke, the City Council last year adopted rules prohibiting smoking cigarettes at bus stops, ATMs and ticket lines, and at outdoor events on city property, except in areas designated by the city manager.

The biggest changes apply to housing with four or more units where smoking cigarettes is prohibited in indoor and outdoor common areas, except those designated for smoking cigarettes. By 2016, landlords must make 50 percent of existing apartment units nonsmoking cigarettes.

"I certainly would like to see us get to an "A"," said Councilman Michael Harris, who has pushed for stricter anti-smoking cigarettes rules in the city. "I think "B" is terrific, it shows we are making strides, it shows we believe secondhand smoke cigarettes has serious health effects."

Harris would like the council to explore additional bans on smoking cigarettes outdoors and in congested downtown areas. He also believes the city should do more to enforce the ban on cigarettes sales to minors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking cigarettes kills about 443,000 people per year in the United States. Of those, about 49,000 die from exposure to secondhand smoke.

Harris proposed banning smoking cigarettes in parks and other public areas at a joint meeting of the City Council and the recreation district board in 2009.

"I know it took some time and effort on their part but I think they came up with a thorough and meaningful way of indicating why smoking cigarettes and secondhand smoke cigarettes is important to Pleasant Hill residents," Harris said. "I think it's a major step forward and I applaud them for taking that step."

Two years ago, several Contra Costa cities adopted tougher anti-smoking cigarettes rules. Martinez became the first city in the county to ban smoking cigarettes in most public places, including common areas in apartments and condominiums. The American Lung Association gave Martinez a "B" for its efforts this year.

Richmond, the only city in the county to earn an "A", adopted rules similar to the ones in Martinez, but went even further by requiring that all multifamily housing units be completely smoke-free by last January. Clayton, Concord and Pinole banned smoking cigarettes in public parks and on public trails.