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Smoking Restrictions in Palo Alto

Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death and disease in California, killing nearly 40,000 Californians every year. The 2012 Surgeon General's Report found that about 90 percent of all smokers first tried cigarettes as teens, and that about three of every four teen smokers continue into adulthood. Young adults, ages 18 to 24, have the highest smoking prevalence among any age group according to the California Department of Public Health. 

In 2017, the City of Palo Alto, recognizing the dangers of smoking and secondary smoke, adopted revisions to the City's existing Smoking and Tobacco Regulations (Ordinance 9.14) to prohibit smoking in designated public spaces, including outdoor dining areas, entryways, public events, recreation areas, and service areas and multi-family residential units. Smoking restrictions for public areas and multi-unit residences are summarized below. Smoking Restrictions in City of Palo Alto Public Areas include:

  • commercial areas (regional and neighborhood);        
  • outdoor dining areas;   
  • outdoor service areas: bus stops, ATMs, ticket lines, etc.;      
  • all public events;    
  • places of employment, including construction worksites;all parks and open space, include the City's golf course; within 25 feet of enclosed areas; exceptions to the current ban are allowed if there is a designated smoking area established and approved by the City that is at least 25 feet from building and includes a cigarette butt receptacle.

Multi-unit Residences
Palo Alto City Council unanimously voted in December 2016 to restrict smoking at all multi-unit residences and common areas to reduce public exposure to secondhand smoke. Smoking restrictions for multi-unit residences go into effect on January 1, 2018. Landlords and sellers of condominium units are required to give written notice to tenants and buyers about the smoking ban and include smoking prohibitions as part of the terms of their rental agreements. This ordinance requirement considered input from a 2015 survey of Palo Alto multi-unit residents. The survey showed that:

  • 80% of multi-unit residents said smoking inside the unit bothers them;
  • 64% indicated smoke bothers them very much;
  • 90% favored smoking restrictions in multi-unit housing.

Public Smoking Ordinance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Current Smoking and Tobacco Regulations (Ordinance 9.14)

New: City Council Approves Tobacco Retail Permit Ordinance

On September 18, 2017, City Council approved the Tobacco Retail Permit Ordinance which requires tobacco retailers to maintain an active Tobacco Retail Permit (TRP–also referred to as a license), and to comply with other tobacco sale requirements. The ordinance will be administered by Santa Clara County Public Health Department. The Ordinance requirements will go into effect in two phases to give tobacco retailers time to comply with ordinance requirements:

Tobacco Retailer Permit Ordinance Effective Dates and key requirements:

  • July 1, 2018 (Phase 1 of Ordinance implementation):
    • Pharmacies may no longer sell tobacco products;
    • Retailers must have and display a Tobacco Retail Permit and comply with related permit posting requirements outlined in the ordinance (Sections 4.64.030(a) through (e), section 4.64.110, section 4.64.120, section 4.64.130, section 4.64.140, section 4.64.150, and section 4.64.160);

  • January 1, 2019 (Phase 2 of Ordinance implementation):
    All remaining Ordinance provisions go into effect (sections 4.64.030(f) through (i)). This phase of the Ordinance will:
    •  Prohibit sales of flavored tobacco;
    • Prohibit use of tobacco vending machines;
    • Set limits on in-store tobacco advertising.

Documents for the proposed Tobacco Retail Permit Ordinance:





Last Updated: Sep 19, 2017