Smoking Ban | South Pasadena Smoking Ordinance Moves Forward

South Pasadena City Council amends Smoking Ordinance in first reading to prohibit smoking on all public sidewalks, walkways, parkways, curbs and gutters

Should South Pasadena Ban Smoking on Public Sidewalks? The City Council is Moving Forward to do So. Please Comment Below.

A first reading to amend an established ordinance to prohibit smoking in all public sidewalks, walkways, parkways, curbs and gutters was approved by the South Pasadena City Council on Wednesday night.

The current ordinance does not allow smoking in enclosed indoor public places, including public meeting rooms, public restrooms, parks, elevators, bars restaurants, bars, supermarkets, museums, libraries, public transportations facilities.

“The new ordinance will make it so no one can smoke in any area where a child will be walking to and from school,” said Gisella Benitez, whose husband, Ricardo, a nonsmoker died of lung cancer last September. “I took a tragedy of my husband’s death and made it into something positive for the whole city.”

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PHOTO: | Robert Bartl of the South Pasadena Police Department is joined by Gisella Benitez, who was instrumental in getting the City Council to making changes to its smoking ordinance.

Over the past six months, Benitez has been a regular attendee at South Pasadena City meetings expressing her concern of secondhand smoke around children walking to and from school.

“Now all kids can walk to school and back home and not worry about walking through secondhand smoke,” explained Benitez. “I started coming to council meetings when picking up my child at the middle school and seeing people on the sidewalks or bus stops. They were smoking and our students were walking through the second hand smoke. It’s such a tragedy that my husband had to die from something he didn’t do. If I can save one child, I did something in Ricardo’s name.”

Recognizing Benitez’s effort to make a change were members of the City Council, who praised her dedication and perseverance. “I wanted to point out how a resident who is passionate about something and also does her research can make a difference,” said Councilmember Dr. Marina Khubesrian. “I hope this decision will improve the quality of life for a lot of people in this city. You’ve turned a tragedy into an opportunity to help people and I applaud you for that.”

Added Councilmember, Michael Cacciotti, “I second Marina’s comments. Great effort.”

Benitez has heard all the health warnings that secondhand smoke can have adverse effects on a person’s blood, blood vessels and increases the risk of a heart attack.

According to a city report on the issue, the council directed city staff “to seek options to expand prohibition of smoking in public places including but not limited to school, public parks, corridors and areas in which secondhand smoke would adversely affect vulnerable populations such as children and seniors.”  City staff recommended amending the current ordinance to prohibit smoking in all public sidewalks, walkways, parkways, curbs and gutters.

Data provided by Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and is a major cause of strokes and coronary heart disease. In the city report on smoking, it points out that secondhand smoke kills approximately 50,000 Americans per year. In addition, secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals of which at least 70 can cause cancer.

Instrumental in compiling information for the city report presented to the City Council was Robert Bartl, assistant captain of the South Police Department. “He did an immense amount of work,” praised Benitez. “His report could have taken well over a year, but he took my efforts personally and helped me along, for sure.”

Smoking is now restricted to the home or inside a vehicle in South Pasadena.

The public will be given an opportunity to speak on the issue during the May 16 City Council meeting at City Hall.

With approval of the amendment, South Pasadena would join the California cities of Agoura Hills, Burbank, Manhattan Beach, Laguna Beach, Calabasas, Oceanside, Del Mar, Santa Monica and San Rafael where smoking in public is banned in public places and sidewalks.

“All the residents in South Pasadena will benefit from this change in the ordinance,” said Benitez, noting that her husband of 24 years died at the age of 52.

Asked what Ricardo would be saying of his wife’s actions in pushing the council to make a change, his wife, holding back tears, answered: “He’s smiling and saying, “Of course you did, of course you made a difference.”



  1. As a person who voluntarily picks up trash and hundreds of cigarette butts, I thoroughly agree that a smoking ban law should be passed. All those cigarette butts lying in the gutters eventually make it to the ocean.
    You know the rest: fish eat the butts and we eat the fish. Reason enough to pass the law.

  2. But this isn’t about health, is it? It’s not even really about protecting children, is it? That’s just the “acceptable” veneer that makes what is essentially an unreasonable demand sound reasonable. No, this is about a heartbroken woman desperately lashing out at the nearest available target in the hope of making herself feel better. It won’t succeed, of course. It always feels as if finding someone to “blame” and “getting back at them” will make you feel better, but it never works. It’s sad that she can’t see that joining the ranks of the bullies in further targeting an already-persecuted group of people actually isn’t a particularly positive outcome – not for her, not for them nor for anyone else. And her beloved husband will, sadly, still be gone. What’s disgraceful is that South Pasadena City Council, who, I assume, are neither bereaved nor grief-stricken, can’t see that passing such a restrictive and unfair policy based purely on their sympathy for just one person’s pain is a very, very dangerous precedent to set.

    • Agreed, Jax. And, I would like to know how this nonsmoking law is not discriminatory against renters who live in an apartment building. Smoking is still allowed at a private residence (owned or rented), but not in an apartment complex – unless, I was told when I called, the landlord sets up an outdoor smoking area that is 25 feet away from a window, door, vent, etc. My apartment building is too small for that possibility, so suddenly I cannot smoke anywhere in South Pasadena unless I visit a friend at their private residence??? How is that not discriminatory to renters? How can that be legal? If I were rich enough to rent a private residence or own a home, I could smoke, but because I am not rich enough and must rent an apartment in a small complex, I cannot smoke. How can that not be considered discriminatory?