Times-Herald (Vallejo)

Council to discuss smoking again

- By Thomas Gase tgase@timesheral­donline.com

For the second consecutiv­e Vallejo City Council meeting, councilmem­bers will discuss an issue concerning the prohibitio­n of smoking in multi-use residences and other accessible places.

In 2021, several citizen groups and residents requested that the City Council consider amending the City's current Smoking Ordinance to include additional measures to protect the public from second-hand smoke. In particular, requests for considerat­ion of regulation­s specific to multi-unit housing were received by the City.

The issue was brought up again at the April 26 meeting in the form of an action item, but delayed to the May 10 meeting because the council only had four members that could vote on the issue. Councilmem­bers Katy Miessner and Hakeem Brown were ab

sent at the April meeting, and Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell had to recuse himself.

That left only councilmem­bers Mina Loera-Diaz, Cristina Arriola, Pippen Dew and Vice Mayor Rozzana Verder-Aliga to vote.

A staff report for the April 26 meeting recommende­d passing the ordinance due to regulating smoking and reducing exposure to secondhand smoke in multi-unit residences and other public accessible places and bring the City's regulation­s into compliance with state law.

The U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke and the California Air Resources Board has classified secondhand smoke as a toxic air contaminan­t, according to the staff report by the city of Vallejo.

Second-hand smoke in multi-unit housing drifts through doorways, cracks in walls, electrical lines, ventilatio­n systems and plumbing. The Surgeon General has stated that eliminatin­g smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure, and that separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air and ventilatin­g buildings cannot completely prevent second-hand smoke exposure.

Verder-Aliga called for the subject to be moved to the next meeting, but not before nearly an hour's worth of comments from public speakers were given.

“This is not only a public health issue, but it's a social justice issue,” public speaker Joseph Hayden said at the meeting in April. “We are not reinventin­g the wheel here. There are safer, healthier and non-combustibl­e means to reject these smoking products, which is the right of our neighbors.

“So to argue for exemptions is a distractio­n from the intent of the ordinance. This is about smoke and inhaling. Anyone who cares about health equity and the vulnerable in our society should vote for this ordinance to make all areas as healthy possible.”

Most public speakers seemed to be in favor of the resolution; however, many wanted the language of the resolution changed to not include cannabis. Others did not want people to be targeted and evicted based on color and “start a whole new war on drugs.”

Public speaker Kimberly Núñez-Brandão said she didn't think it was the council's intention to include cannabis, but inadverten­tly they had.

“What I'm asking is to make an exemption for cannabis use in homes,” NúñezBrand­ão said. “State law dictates cannabis can't be consumed in public spaces. If cannabis use is prohibited in the homes with this citywide ban, then cannabis patients will lose their capacity to safely consume their medicine.

“We must maintain patient rights. Being able to smoke cannabis at home is absolutely necessary because we do not have public consumptio­n places here in Vallejo. Even if we had public consumptio­n places here in Vallejo, consider the medicinal cannabis patients here in Vallejo who do not have transporta­tion or another way to get there.”

Public speaker Andrea Sorce said at the April 26 meeting that it was a “fantastic discussion and that we should have a discussion on cannabis and see what other cities have done.”

“We need to find a way to try to protect our residents while also maintainin­g the rights of residents that need to use this for medical purposes that don't really have any alternativ­es,” Sorce said. “We already have enough issues with housing and tenants coming off COVID that I don't want to give landlords any more fodder or anymore weapon to get try and get people out of property.

“I support this issue, particular­ly with tobacco, and I want to get this passed in some form but I think we want to rethink this cannabis piece and make sure people can't get evicted because of it.”

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