“I see it as a quality of life issue,” Councilor Ron Trujillo said. “I don’t want to take anyone’s rights away, but let’s see if we can regulate this just to make it enjoyable to go to a park without smelling smoke or worrying about where people have spit.”
Trujillo said it bothers him to see people smoking and spitting tobacco in parks and around playgrounds. Not only is it an unhealthy habit for those who partake, but smoke and spit could adversely affect others in the area.
Trujillo is the same city councilor who earlier this year successfully brought changes to the city’s tobacco procurement and smoke-free ordinance that now includes e-cigarettes. He said then that he didn’t want to send a message to youth that smoking, even e-cigarettes, was OK.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices containing a liquid that when heated emit vapor instead of smoke. Several people said during public hearings on whether to include them in the city’s smoke-free ordinance that e-cigarettes were a safer alternative to cigarettes and helped wean them off tobacco.
Currently, the city’s ordinance prohibits smoking and tobacco use inside public places such as restaurants, bars, retail stores, theaters, other enclosed areas, and within 25 feet of a building entrance.
Trujillo, who introduced the ban measure at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, said he’s gotten a lot of positive feedback from people he’s talked to since then, but he expects there will be some resistance to his proposal.
“I want to have a discussion about it,” he said. “I’m open to compromise. Do we set up a place in the parks where people can smoke? Do we set up a buffer zone? Going through the process, that’s where it will get tweaked.”
At Wednesday’s meeting, Councilor Patti Bushee said that while she’s been an advocate against smoking in public places, she wanted to see the details of the ordinance before she agreed to sign on as a sponsor.
Trujillo said he expects the most resistance to come from banning smoking in the Plaza, a popular tourist destination.
Asked if a smoking ban there could have a negative impact on tourism, he said he didn’t think it would. He said people come to Santa Fe for the arts, culture and other attractions, not to smoke.
A big fan of the Santa Fe Fuego, a semi-pro baseball team that plays its home games at Fort Marcy Park, Trujillo said he knows the ban will affect those players who use chewing tobacco.
“They may think that it’s part of baseball, but if everyone has to abide by it they have to too,” he said.