News Details

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 on 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.


New: City Council to Consider Tobacco Retail Permits for Retailers in September, 2018

City Council is scheduled to consider an ordinance requiring Tobacco Retail Permits (TRP) which would be administered by Santa Clara County Public Health Department. The ordinance would prohibit:      

  • sales of tobacco products at pharmacies;       
  • retail sale of tobacco products 1,000 feet from schools;
  • new retailers from selling tobacco products within 500 of existing tobacco retailers;
  • various on-site retailer advertising, and vending machine sales.

The City of Palo Alto is currently scheduled to consider the draft TRP Ordinance on Monday, September 18 6:00pm at its City Council Meeting, City Council Chambers, 250 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto. Council agenda dates and discussion times are subject to change. If you plan to attend the meeting, visit the Palo Alto City Council webpage in advance to ensure that the meeting date or discussion time has not been revised. You may also submit comments to City Council by emailing


Smoking Ordinance Timeline

Smoking Prohibited in designated public areas

In effect

Effective date for multi-unit residential smoking ordinance requirements


Proposed revisions to the existing Smoking Ordinance to require Tobacco Retailers Permit  requirements

    • September 18, 2017 First Ordinance Reading

    • October, 2017 Second Ordinance Reading (date to be determined)

    • January 1, 2019 Retailers must have a Tobacco Retail Permit

    • January 2, 2020 Retailers must comply with all provisions of the TRP.




      • Proposed ordinance revisions to include Tobacco Retail Permit requirements will be posted when available.


      For additional information, email, or call 650.329.2122.


      Last Updated August 2, 2017