Get off the unicycle. Don’t throw that ball. Hacky sack over there, please.
The list of prohibited activities on Santa Fe’s Plaza just grew longer. And more definitive. Smoking is no longer allowed at any time.
After two committee hearings on a proposed smoking ban during bandstand events on the Plaza, an amendment offered by Councilor Peter Ives during Wednesday’s City Council meeting made the ban universal.
Councilors voted 7-1 to enact the measure. It goes into effect five days after a notice of adoption is published by the city, which means the ban will likely become law before Memorial Day.
Under the new provisions, smoking a cigarette, cigar, pipe “or any other similar device that produces smoke and/or odor” is prohibited. Theoretically, that includes vaping and e-cigarettes, unless they produce an odorless cloud. Councilors spent time debating whether the ban could be broadly interpreted to include the relatively new devices, ultimately deciding that it did apply and that language was specific enough to allow a police officer to write a ticket for vaping as well as smoking.
Lighting up or puffing away will earn a warning for a first offense, then a $50 fine and finally a $100 whack on the third violation. The ban stops at the edge of the Plaza, which is defined in city law as the inside curb on each street that bounds the downtown square. Traffic is currently blocked from those areas on the north and east sides of the Plaza.
The proposal didn’t draw a crowd to meetings that often see a large turnout for controversial issues. Several speakers supported the proposal. No one voiced opposition to the council.
Judy Towers celebrated her four-year anniversary as a head and neck cancer survivor last month. “I find it extremely unpleasant when someone sits down next to me and blows smoke in my face,” she testified during the meeting.
“It’s terrible,” she tells SFR outside. “You get your chair set up and you’re all ready and then some bum walks up next to you and starts smoking.”
Sandra Adondakis of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network told councilors, “We’re really excited about this and we’re hopeful that at some point we can make it full-time.”
"Some point" came about 10 minutes later as Ives proposed his amendment. It was clear no one on the City Council who supported the bandstand events prohibition had an issue with broadening the ban.
District 4 Councilor Mike Harris cast the lone vote against the proposal, arguing that the city was legislating a minor issue.
“I’m bothered by this. I think it’s unnecessary. I think people can and should work this out,” Harris told his fellow councilors. “I was going to propose we put signs up that say ‘thank you for not smoking’ and let people sort it out.”
Councilor Renee Villarreal said a recent Plaza clean-up event showed smoking on the Plaza was more than a health issue during crowded activities. “The biggest trash item we picked up were cigarette butts,” she said.
While more broad than anticipated, the prohibition isn’t as draconian as it might seem.
The Orange County Register reported this week that Laguna Beach’s governing body voted to ban outdoor smoking, vaping and e-cigarettes across the Southern California city. Penalties for violating that ban range up to $500 for three violations in a year.
The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation says that more than 1,400 cities across the country ban smoking in parks. But just two cities in New Mexico do: Albuquerque and Mesilla.
Neighboring states like Colorado, Texas, Utah and Arizona all have more cities with smoking bans for their parks, though Arizona claims just a handful of such municipalities.
Santa Fe has actually considered a parks ban before. City Councilor Ron Trujillo introduced a measure in 2014 that would have banned smoking at large in city parks—and the Plaza—though it would have provided designated smoking areas.
“We just didn’t have the votes,” Trujillo tells SFR. He voted for the ban on Wednesday.
“Maybe if it does work [on the Plaza] we can look at other places,” he says. “This is a start.”
Councilor Carmichael Dominguez, who represents the city’s Southside, said he plans to introduce a measure for a similar ban during bandstand events at the Southwest Area Node Park—or SWAN Park—in his district.