No Smoking in Open Space and Parks Effective 10/9/2013

California was the first state to implement a smoke-free restaurant law in 1995 and a smoke- free bar law in 1998. In 2004, California banned smoking near entrances, exits, covered parking lots and operable windows (GC 7596-7598, Assembly Bill 846). In 2002, California banned smoking within 25 feet of tot-lots and playgrounds. Since that time, approximately 300 municipalities in California have adopted more progressive smoking bans in recreational areas beyond state law.

The City of Palo Alto has joined the many cities and counties that have enacted bans on smoking in public places. On August 12, 2013, the City Council approved a ban on smoking in all public parks and open space nature preserves, including the City golf course.
Q: Why did the Palo Alto City Council adopt a more restrictive smoking ban?
A ban on smoking in public areas would reduce the public’s exposure to the negative effects of secondhand smoke, particularly within more sensitive populations including children and older adults. It may also have other positive effects including:

  • Increased park usage.
  • Reduction in tobacco-related litter.
  • Reduced fire risk from discarded cigarette butts.
  • Preventing discarded cigarette butts from being ingested by children, pets and wildlife.

Q: What recent changes were made to the ordinance?
Chapter 9.14 (Smoking And Tobacco Regulations) of the Palo Alto Municipal Code was amended to establish new smoking restrictions for all parks and to increase no-smoking buffer zones from 20 to 25 feet.

Per Palo Alto Municipal Code (PAMC) Section 9.14.035 Smoking Prohibited – Public Parks.– smoking is prohibited in all Palo Alto Parks, Open Space areas, and the municipal golf course.

Q: When did the new smoking ban go into effect?
October 9, 2013. Since that time, staff has posted no smoking signage in city parks, removed ash trays, posted information regarding the smoking ban on the city’s website, and social media.

Q: Where can I smoke at parks and public facilities that are now non-smoking?
You cannot smoke anywhere within those areas including pathways, parking lots, etc. However, you may smoke in the public right-of-way including sidewalks that are immediately adjacent to those areas since there is no requirement to be a certain number of feet away from the park or facility.

Q: What public outreach is being conducted to educate residents and businesses of the newly adopted policies?
Staff posted information about the newly adopted smoking ban on the City’s website, on Twitter, on and on Facebook.

Q: How will the smoking ban be enforced?
Most jurisdictions that have passed more restrictive smoking bans do not intend for staff to proactively patrol areas in search of people smoking in prohibited areas. Palo Alto, consistent with most jurisdictions, would rely on self-enforcement. However, smokers who are in violation may be cited by a Park Ranger or Police Officer.

Q: What should I do if I see someone smoking in a park area?
A: If you notice someone violating any of the park rules, you may politely direct them to the attention of the rules and ask for their understanding, if you feel comfortable doing so. Or, you may ask any member of the park or recreation staff to remind the violator of the rules. If a person refuses to comply, you may report the incident to Palo Alto Communications by calling (650) 329-2413. Police will respond based upon priority and availability.

Q: Where can I obtain additional information about the newly adopted smoking ban?
Contact Daren Anderson, Division Manager of Open Space, Parks, and Golf at (650) 496-6950 or by email at

For additional information on Palo Alto Parks and Open Space, call (650) 496-6962.

You may download this information by clicking on this link: Frequently Asked Questions.

Last Updated: August 27, 2013