Belmont fires up citywide smoking ban

A clearly divided City Council narrowly approved an incendiary smoking ordinance despite protests from members of the Belmont business community.

Belmont’s smoking ban, approved in a 3-2 vote with Councilman Bill Dickenson and Vice Mayor Warren Lieberman dissenting, will reduce the already dwindling number of places puffers can light up and declare secondhand smoke a public nuisance.

Councilman Phil Mathewson called the ordinance “perfect,’ but Dickenson and Lieberman both said it took the wrong approach.

“Telling business owners how to operate is not how I’m going to legislate,” Dickenson said. “I think we should have focused a lot more on the education piece instead of the legislative piece.”

Lieberman and Dickenson both said the city should have focused more on educating the public about the hazards of smoking.

Under the new ordinance, smoking is prohibited in work places except for smoking shops operated by a single person. It is to be banned from common areas in any multi-unit residents and any homes that share common floors or ceilings with other homes.

Landlords in Belmont must also now insert no-smoking terms in their residential leases. All residential smoking provisions will go into effect 14 months after the adoption of the ordinance.

Smoking is allowed in a number of areas still, including single family and detached homes, designated smoking areas, personal vehicles and streets and sidewalks unless they’re being used as workplaces or for city-sponsored events.

Enforcement of the ordinance will be complaint-driven, much like Belmont’s noise ordinance, and first-time offenders will be issued a notice. If interested, offenders can be referred to programs to help them stop smoking. Furtherviolations could entail legal or criminal actions.

“The goal of this ordinance is compliance, not punishment,” said City Attorney Marc Zafferano.

The ordinance will be on the consent agenda at the Sept. 25 Belmont City Council meeting, at 7:30 p.m. in Council Chambers. Unless opposition rises then, the ordinance will become law 30 days later. It will also be reviewed one year from the adoption date.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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