Rocklin parents want city to snuff out neighbors' cigarettes

By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Californians have been living with smoking bans within 20 feet of government buildings, schools and playgrounds, and even bars and restaurants. Now some Rocklin parents hope Rocklin will go one step further. The James Baker family wants to stop the cancer-causing emissions floating into their home during their neighbors’ patio smoking breaks. “We’re just saying, ‘please don’t poison us,’” James Baker said. “Can you smoke inside your home? The reason they don’t want to do that is because they don’t want their family breathing it in. But it’s okay for your neighbor?” Between 38,000 and 62,000 nonsmoking Americans die every year from exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. “Kids like to play in the back yard,” Rocklin resident Kelly Baker said. “It’s scary when you can’t breathe.” Kelly and her two sons, ages 11 and 16, have asthma. After l0 years of being surrounded by smoking neighbors, Kelly said her children have become sicker. The U.S. Surgeon General reported in 2006 that secondhand smoke has been associated with long-term health problems, including lung cancer and heart disease. The serious short term, acute effects of exposure to secondhand smoke include: asthma attacks, respiratory infections, nasal and eye irritation, and lung irritation. Kelly explained she can smell the smoke from her neighbors’ patio cigarette breaks everywhere in her house, including the bathroom and laundry room. “I’ll stand by my pantry and smell smoke,” she said. “Even during the winter with every window shut and every door shut (the smoke) comes in. It comes in through the vents, I think.” Secondhand smoke is classified as a Class A Carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection agency and, by definition, there is no safe level of exposure. “This is against my will,” James Baker said. “I am being poisoned against my will. As a homeowner our options are either to tolerate it or move out.” The Bakers are also worried about third hand smoke, which is the particulate matter that collects on the surfaces and personal property. “That sticks on our walls and everything,” James Baker said. “We don’t use our backyard at all.” Before he approached the city council, James Baker went to his neighbors seeking a peaceful resolution. In response, one neighbor cut back the exposure, while the other reportedly blew him off. Last month Baker requested the city develop nuisance ordinance similar to the one in place in Dublin. In the Bay Area city’s ordinance, the offender could be charged with misdemeanor and be required to pay a $250 fine and perform community service for one year. “The landlord could get fined and sometimes that’s enough to do something,” James Baker said. Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst said he is studying the issue for the council, but it is problematic. “How do you regulate and enforce smoking on private property that may drift with the wind into a neighbor’s yard,” Horst said. Council member Diana Ruslin said the potential ordinance is not off the table. “I understand his concern. When it’s your family, they are the most important thing — as they should be,” Ruslin said. “When someone comes to council, it does not fall on deaf ears.” Baker also plans to speak to the Placer County Air Resources Board and form a political action committee to garner support for the ordinance. “The first move is to have a peaceful resolution. When that is not going the way you want it to, it’s time to reach out to your government,” he said. James Baker said a lawsuit against his neighbors is unacceptable. The neighbor in question declined to comment. While the city reviews the issue, James Baker is considering moving out of his home for the health of his family. “It’s not a property issue. It’s an issue of poison,” James Baker said. “Ten percent of all Californians smoke. In a town of our size, are we protecting the rights of the minority?”