Council bans smoking on Plaza year-round

May 12, 2017

A smoking ban on the Santa Fe Plaza that the City Council enacted Wednesday will be in effect year-round, not just during the Santa Fe Bandstand music series as previously reported.

The initial proposal called for a smoking ban during the summertime performances, but the council adopted a last-minute amendment that extends the smoking ban to all year. The New Mexican erroneously reported the council’s action.

The smoking ban and other prohibited activities on the Plaza, such as riding a bicycle or a skateboard or throwing a football or any other recreational object, applies only to the Plaza park. The city defines the park as the land within the surrounding sidewalks but not the streets themselves, though the city already prohibits smoking 25 feet from doorways to public buildings, as well as in restaurants, bars, outdoor dining areas and other public spaces.

The ban will go into effect in about a week or so.

People on the Plaza had mixed reactions to the smoking ban Thursday.

“I understand the ban because people don’t like to be around smokers,” Diane Oehler, who is visiting from Texas, said while puffing an American Spirit cigarette on the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and East San Francisco Street. “But people are going to smoke, so there has to be a place that people will buy into and keep it pleasant. Too much policing is difficult.”

The police department is responsible for enforcing the ordinance prohibiting certain activities on the Plaza, which calls for a verbal warning for the first offense, a $50 fine for the second and $100 for the third.

“We’re just doing too many laws,” food vendor Roque Garcia said while serving his signature carnitas.

“Santa Fe never used to be this way,” he added. “Now we’re becoming like the big cities, like San Francisco and all this. I was born and raised here. I’m the only Chicano. If you look around, sometimes I look like the fly in the milk with all the Anglo people.”

Garcia also called the smoking ban a waste of police resources.

“People like to smoke. It’s not going to hurt anybody,” Garcia said.

But what about secondhand smoke?

“But what?” Garcia responded. “You have to be very close to it. It goes up in the air. Nobody is going to sit down next to a smoker.”

One of his customers, tour bus driver Mike Green, said he disagreed with Garcia.

“I would like to exercise my rights and say I don’t want to breathe the smoke,” said Green, who lives in Utah. “It can be 20 feet away and blowing and the wind will come right over and blow it on me and I have to walk away. I do this all the time. I have to walk someplace else.”

Rani Grepler, 33, who started smoking at age 16, said he won’t smoke in close proximity to other people as a courtesy, though he was puffing on a cigarette while sitting on a Plaza bench as people walked by.

Grepler, who was visiting from Israel, said he hadn’t seen many smokers in the park. “When I smoke and I’m just looking around, if people are around me, I don’t take the cigarettes.”

Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 505-986-3089 or dchacon@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.