Smoking Ban Speech Reveals Unlikely Supporter

Continuing the fight for smoke-free parks in Santee. If the 17 other cities in San Diego County can have a smoking ban at their city parks, then why can't we?

Wednesday night marked the fourth speech in public communication trying to convince just one member of the city council to put this item on the agenda for discussion.  To this point they have all refused.

In this speech, however, I revealed that I had a very unlikely supporter of this effort and also notified everyone of the Union-Tribune article that was coming out Thursday morning.  If you missed the article here is the link:


As I have done after each meeting, I am posting a copy of the speech read to the City Council.  Here it is:

Sometimes you have to turn to the unlikeliest of sources for support.  After the last City Council Meeting I decided to reach out to a place nobody would expect to
support a smoking ban.

When I sent my request for support to them I was not sure what to expect.  I was
pleasantly surprised when I received an email back.  It was a short response—only 3 sentences.  But it was the second sentence that spoke volumes.  It read:

“We further believe that the conclusions of public health officials concerning environmental tobacco smoke are sufficient to warrant measures that regulate smoking in public places.”

The company that made that statement is Altria Group Incorporated—better known as Philip Morris USA, the largest tobacco company in the United States.

The public health officials that they refer to include the surgeon general, who is the nation’s leading speaker on matters of public health.

So while the leading tobacco company agrees with the surgeon general’s report that there is no risk-free level of second hand smoke, the five members of the Santee City Council apparently do not.  They are putting personal liberty and freedom ahead of the health and safety of the public and in particular our children by refusing to put the topic on their agenda for discussion and action. 

The fact that Santee is the only city to allow smoking in its city parks is now getting attention from the media. The Union-Tribune will be publishing an article in tomorrow’s edition. It is being written by Karen Pearlman and will appear in the East County section.  

The effort by public health officials, both nationwide and locally, to reduce and prevent smoking among young people is being undermined by the continued allowance of smoking at our city parks.

Nearly all tobacco use begins during youth and young adulthood. The fewer places our youth are exposed to smoking…the less likely they will ever begin smoking.

More than 600,000 middle school students in this country smoke cigarettes.  About 1.5 million students under age 18 will try their first cigarette this year.  The
younger children are when they try tobacco the more likely they are to become

This is unacceptable

I am continuing this fight for one simple reason: the health and well being of our children.

Sadly, children are powerless to protect themselves from all of this.   But we are not powerless to help protect them.

As parents, neighbors, and government officials---as a society---we want nothing but the best for our children. We want them to be safe and to grow up healthy.

Yet, we allow our children to breathe a substance that contains more than 50 cancer-causing chemicals.

We allow them to be exposed to a substance that makes healthy children sick and sick children even sicker.

We allow them to be exposed to the cancer causing habit, knowing that if they start and become addicted it—that it could eventually kill them.

We can do better and we should do better.   Especially in Santee.

After the speech, Councilman John Minto spoke up simply to once again ask me to clarify where it is I live. We've already clarified that I live in Lakeside, John.  Nothing news breaking there.  As has been previously told—my daughter goes to school in Santee. I am on the board for the Santee School District Foundation.I serve on three committees for the Santee School District—not to mention I generally grocery shop in Santee. My daughter plays soccer at the Sportsplex in Santee, and I generally dine and shop in Santee.  I've also said that I plan on moving to Santee when I can. 

I guess it might be your way to deflect the attention from you guys I don't know.  Doesn't make much sense to continually bring it up.  

Councilman Jack Dale then spoke up to advise the other members that he was interviewed for the article that I mentioned.  He seemed to be open to possibly considering a ban in the future.  The one thing he pointed out and also stated in the Union-Tribune story was that he was shocked to learn that Santee was the only city in San Diego County without a smoking ban.  Really?  I've only stated that fact in each of my speeches.

Finally Vice Mayor Rob McNelis chimed in and said that while he 1000% supports promoting a healthy lifestyle he also is 1000% against forcing someone to comply.

So it's still not on the agenda, but perhaps we started to make progress.  There are two more City Council meetings before the community forum scheduled to be held on April 18th at 7:00PM in the theater of West Hills High School.

Vice Mayor Rob McNelis has agreed to be there along with representatives from the American Heart Association, American Lung Association, American Cancer Society, Santee Solutions, Santee Collaborative, and Health and Human Service Agency.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

James Jones March 27, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Everyone has the freedom to believe and express what they want to, but I won't stand by and let distorted data and half truths go unquestioned. And if you and your supporters don't understand why it is important to know the credentials of someone who claims to be a "Doctor" in the midst of a discussion that hinges on medical and scientific truth, then you truly are mindless sheep with no clue about critical thinking. Exactly the thing I fear the most, blind allegiance.
James Jones March 27, 2012 at 09:46 PM
If questioning the very science that you are using to forward your agenda is "bullying", then I guess I'm a bully. Can't wait for your "public forum" where there will be representatives from 5 or 6 anti-smoking organizations and one person representing the opposition. But that's not bullying, right? That's much more noble,right? It's called ganging up on someone.
Christal Ferris March 27, 2012 at 09:48 PM
I was trying to stay out of this as it is a senseless argument. However, the doctor gave us sources that you can only access if you have access to a university library. All I ever asked for was a compromise.
Larry March 27, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Motivated, how are other cities enforcing their bans?
Larry March 27, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Christal...I did a Yahoo search and found pleny of studies. Most conclude that distance from the smoke is key. And, IMO, your suggestion of smoking sections in the parks would take care of that issue.
James Jones March 27, 2012 at 10:14 PM
@Christal: Senseless? How so? Enlighten us.
Christal Ferris March 27, 2012 at 10:30 PM
@Larry, of course you can use a search engine and find studies. I was merely pointing out that the doctor cited sources that can only be found using a university library. Of course distance is key. That was my point 500 responses ago. @James, senseless because you all sound like a gaggle of geese fighting over food. No one wants to listen to the other. No one acknowledges the opinions of others. Look, we all know the dangers of second-hand smoke. Let's provide a designated area far away from others. I feel this is the only viable solution to keep the freedom of smokers without impeding on the lives of non-smokers.
Art March 27, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Wow, love the name calling.... I agree with Christal, this has quickly escalated into a senseless argument. Some are for the ban, some are against the ban, some are for a smoking section, some are against the smoking section. At the end of the day, does it matter? If Joe gets the item on the council agenda, then it'll be up for debate again. And yes Larry, distance is the key. Therefore, if there is a smoking area away from the kids, playgrounds, sidewalks, and everything else, the amount of smoke the nonsmokers will breathe will be much less. Is it the best solution, maybe not... But I don't think we should ban it outright, just like we haven't banned fast food, flatulence, car exhaust, any number of things that are harmful to us to include people who resort to name calling and stereotyping.
James Jones March 27, 2012 at 10:47 PM
One side is dealing in opinions, the other is dealing with facts and is asking the same of the other side. I agree that the best compromise is a smoking area. But Joe's steamroller approach to shoving his agenda down the entire community's throat without being questioned, that isn't going to go unchallenged. It is his aggressive, no compromise, refusal to back up his science that has escalated this debate. Unfortunately, I don't have all day to go on TV, rally the non-profits, etc, etc. Maybe when you own a business you don't have to work that much. That wasn't my experience, but kudos to him. Please someone show me that I am wrong about the methodology used for the studies being much different than what would be encountered in a park setting. And please don't send a bunch of links to studies and then say you haven't read them. Because I DO read them and I look at the methodology used.
James Jones March 27, 2012 at 10:54 PM
Christal wrote: "Look, we all know the dangers of second-hand smoke." Do we? Under what circumstances? 18 inches from a smoker? 20 feet? For one second? One hour? What? That is too broad a statement to agree to without further explanation. Do you see what I am saying? It's akin to saying, "Look we all know the dangers of the Sun" or "Look, we all know the dangers of water." Either one can kill you, but under what circumstances?
Larry March 27, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Hey Art, could we re-consider the ban on flatulence? Just sayin.
James Jones March 27, 2012 at 11:47 PM
@N.McNeil Excellent! Now how about you READ them and try to understand exactly what those words mean relative to the study. I'll help you...."Potential" does not mean that something actually occurs, it means it is "possible". "Increase" means nothing if the magnitude of the increase is not known. The definition of short term exposure negates the statement about platelets. Anything else I can help you with?
Christal Ferris March 27, 2012 at 11:57 PM
I get what you are saying James. While there is research, the data does not conclude the dangers of exposure to second-hand smoke in an outdoor setting concretely. I get that. To minimize the risk, a designated area would be ideal. I know it seems Joe is refusing to compromise. I also don't understand why. That said, taking precautions is key here.
Christal Ferris March 27, 2012 at 11:57 PM
I get what you are saying James. While there is research, the data does not conclude the dangers of exposure to second-hand smoke in an outdoor setting concretely. I get that. To minimize the risk, a designated area would be ideal. I know it seems Joe is refusing to compromise. I also don't understand why. That said, taking precautions is key here.
joan sullivan March 28, 2012 at 01:32 AM
@ Joe Spencer. " ... Do you accept that answer from your child when they say "well so and so did it first". I'm guessing your response would be that you didn't care what so and so did. Right" Exactly. Why should Santee care what El Cajon and Lemon Grove and San Diego did?
joan sullivan March 28, 2012 at 01:46 AM
More quotes from your above linked article, McNeil. You omitted some pertinent stuff: "Unlike indoor tobacco smoke, which can persist for hours, the researchers found that outdoor smoke disappears rapidly when a cigarette is extinguished. "Our data also show that if you move about six feet away from an outdoor smoker, your exposure levels are much lower, " Klepeis added. And: "A typical cigarette lasts about 10 minutes, "Klepeis said. "We found that if you're within two feet downwind of a smoker, you may be exposed to pollutant concentrations that exceed 500 micrograms of PM2.5 over that 10-minute period. However, the researchers found that air quality improved as they moved away from the smoker. "These results show what common sense would suggest -- when you're within a few feet downwind of a smoker, you get exposed," Ott explained. "But likewise, when you go a little distance or stay upwind, the exposure goes way down. If there's just one smoker, and you can sit six feet away, you would have little problem."
joan sullivan March 28, 2012 at 02:38 AM
@Cristal: "Look, we all know the dangers of second-hand smoke." I am a smoker. I am not magic. I cannot make your hens stop laying eggs or your well go dry. I cannot kill you with a breath. The Old Woman. The dangers of second-hand smoke are no more than those from the evil eye. You believe in it because you have been carefully taught.
Christal Ferris March 28, 2012 at 02:42 AM
@Joan. Really? I smoke. I don't give a rip about smoking in a designated area. What is so hard about that? What is wrong with minimizing the perceived risk? It's not that tough.
Mary March 28, 2012 at 04:15 AM
N. McNeil - Thanks for the link that was especially for me http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/secondhandsmoke/factsheets/factsheet6.html. I am impressed as it is the Surgeon General’s Report dated today. But I take exception to your interpretation and conclusions of the report. The report starts out with “Many millions of Americans, both children and adults, are still exposed to SECONDHAND SMOKE IN THEIR HOMES AND WORKPLACES despite substantial progress in tobacco control.” It continues to discuss indoor workers that are not covered by smoke-free WORKPLACE policies and OCCUPATIONAL carcinogens. It also states risk factors regarding the development of heart disease and lung cancer to nonsmokers who are exposed to SECONDHAND SMOKE AT HOME OR AT WORK. The report ends with “The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the preeminent U.S. body on ventilation issues, has concluded that ventilation technology cannot be relied on to control health risks from secondhand smoke exposure,” The entire article appears to be about second-hand smoke exposure in a closed environment which still has nothing to do with effects of exposure in an open air setting.
Mary March 28, 2012 at 04:50 AM
Mr. Spencer - You talk about “how a majority of people who dont like this ban…” There is no ban as of this writing, JUST YOUR OPINION THAT THERE SHOULD BE A BAN. I believe everyone has the right to express what they want or believe, but then those who disagree with you also have the right to throw light on said viewpoint. It still appears your side cannot give us a DOT GOV link that supports your position conclusively. It shouldn’t be up to us to prove what you purport is common knowledge. Everything your proponents have cited ends up not addressing the issue of OPEN AIR second-hand smoke. No one here denies the problems with second-hand smoke in a closed environment, but that is not what the issue is. Christal - I certainly understand your frustration. But, I for one don't think a compromise is necessary when they cannot prove their position.
Mary March 28, 2012 at 05:47 AM
Mr Spencer - On Friday, 3/16/12 you posted a personal note to me stating “Do you even have a CLUE what you are talking about?!?!? ….but stupidity is what really pushes the button.” On Saturday, 3/24/12 another personal note to me stating “…You were 100% wrong on that issue...as I confirmed with folks at school...they MAKE money on a child transferring in because they get paid by the state. They LOVE transfers into the scool district. I bring that up because this is another point that you are 100% wrong.” On Sunday, 3/25/12 you posted another note to me saying “I know you were wrong with your claim that I somehow owed the district money. Both teachers and other community members confirmed my belief." I told you I would check into the matter and get you the data to back up my position that having your daughter on an inter-district transfer from Lakeside (where you reside) to the Santee School District costs the taxpayers of Santee money. Yesterday I posted a copy of the letter I sent to our School District. I have received the information from the Santee School District which indicates For 2011-12, the PER PUPIL COST based on the latest revised budget = $7,480. Reimbursement from the State of California For 2011-12 is $4,950 per student The difference is $2,530 per student. For 2010-11, the District received $9,295,871 from Property Tax sources. No monies are received by the Santee School District from Santee City Sales Tax Over & Out!
joan sullivan March 28, 2012 at 09:16 AM
@Christal: I'm sorry to take so long getting back to you. I've been merrily bouncing through the studies on that link Amelia supplied for hours -- I'm a nerd, I LUV studies. Our opponent on the park smoking ban isn't Joe -- He's just the local front man. Our opponent is a massive, well-funded, politically savvy coalition of anti-tobacco organizations. Their goal isn't to remove smoking from Santee's parks: their goal is to remove ALL tobacco use from everyone and everywhere in California. If they give you a crust today, they will yank it out of your hands tomorrow. Both the San Diego and the El Cajon ordinances contained provisions for smoking designated areas. Where are they today? They do not exist. A few years after the San Diego ban was passed, a UT reporter went to Balboa Park and looked for the smoking designated areas. When he found none, he called the mayor's office and asked why. He was told that the mayor decided not to designate any smoking areas because he did not want to encourage an unhealthy practice.
joan sullivan March 28, 2012 at 07:47 PM
How to manipulate a city council: "STRATEGIES TO PROMOTE SMOKE-FREE RECREATION AREAS" "Our analysis found these 6 strategies to be the most effective: 1) having a (local) "champion" who helps to carry an objective forward (Our Boy, Joe), 2) tapping into a pool of potential youth volunteers, 3) collecting and using local data as a persuasive tool, 4) educating the community in smoke-free policy efforts, 5) working strategically in the local political climate, and 6) framing the policy appropriately. CONCLUSION: These strategies proved effective regardless of whether policies were voluntary, administrative, or legislative. Successful policy enactment required a strong foundation of agency funding and an experienced and committed staff." Funded by the California Tobacco Control Program (MY tax dollars at work). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3181184/ READ IT!! This paper was on the list Amelia linked for us. This is what you will see happening in Santee in coming months as Joe and his cohorts push for the park smoking ban.
Motivated Santee Citizen March 28, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Anyone reading this thread from outside Santee has got to be shaking their heads in disbelieve at Santee. We have got to be the laughing stock of the county at a minimum and most likely a much larger area than that. I am waiting to see this on the national news. It is unbelievable to me how much trouble the smokers will try and stir up for Joe simply to try and harass and intimidate him into going away with all of this nonsense about where he lives, where his daughter goes to school, etc. As I have seen this before by long time Santee residents with their bully tactics, it would seem that this is the "old School" Santee people's methodolgy for trying to win when they are clearly in the wrong. Pitiful if you ask me. We have a much bigger issue that threatens Santee being the power plant, yet I have not seen any comments on that thread for a week. Ban the smoking in the parks as it should be and make the Sheriff's Dept enforce it if they want to or not and move on to stopping the power plant which will ruin Santee for all of its residents.
Art March 28, 2012 at 08:50 PM
There ya go Motivated, with your stereotypical comments again. I'm a smoker, and not trying to create trouble about Joe. I could care less where Joe lives, what he does, where his daughter goes to school, or any of that. I recommended a compromise, which "all you non smokers" (See, I can stereotype too!) are against. I doubt we have any more people laughing at Santee, then we did before. Even aside from the smoking in parks, Santee does have bigger issues to worry about, the power plant being one of those, the fact that there are RV's everywhere you look on the streets, the neighborhoods you drive through that have cars on blocks in the front yard, the yards where the weeds are 4 foot high. Rather then deal with all the obvious things wrong with Santee, that can be changed. Most of the people on here want to "ban" smoking which honestly, I haven't seen that many people smoke in the park to begin with. But honestly, I get a kick out of your name calling, please continue, it only lends credibility to your posts...
Motivated Santee Citizen March 28, 2012 at 09:34 PM
I just tell it the way I see it Art. Nothing more, nothing less. I am curios as to why the "obvious things wrong" are not being taken care of? Maybe Joe and I can get together on these issues? I really want to see Santee become the city that it has the potential to be and not a place that the rest of the county laughs at.
Art March 28, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Motivated, same goes for me. I moved here 3 years ago because of home prices, school systems, and the fact that it has the small town feel. We moved in right around Christmas, and got to see Starlight Circle and all that. However, with that being said, I also think that there are bigger things to worry about then smoking in the park. Cigarette butts on the ground is always going to be a problem, especially since the parks are accessible at night for whoever wants to go out there whether it be the homeless, teens, or careless smokers. As far as the obvious things, people either don't care about the laws, don't know about the laws, or are too ignorant to follow them. Not to mention that our Sheriffs Dept is understaffed, and can't give a citation to everyone. Most places have regulations against RV's, does Santee have one?
joan sullivan March 29, 2012 at 05:14 AM
MSC says Santee will be a laughing stock in the national news. Suggested news headline: "Santee, the staunch tree standing in a felled forest, is under attack by anti-smoking non-profit charities with chain saws."
Mary March 29, 2012 at 06:10 AM
Art - Please don’t lump me in with Motivated. I am and always have been a NON-smoker. I am not trying to create trouble for Mr Spencer. He was the one who stated his housing locale and the arrangements he has made for his daughter’s schooling. I asked why he thought it was fair for the residents of Santee to pick up the dime for his individual preferences, and yes I did question his tactics regarding playground repairs at the school his daughter attends after another blogger brought his actions to our attention on this blog. I inquired about issues he and other’s raised. I dropped the issue when others thought I was too hard on him and being to personal. Then Mr. Spencer brought it up again and specifically wanted me to respond to his allegations of me being 100% wrong, as if I should apologize for making statements that eventually were proven true. As a property tax payer, living in the city of Santee, I believe I have a right to question where my tax dollars are going and for what purpose, and to call out people who use everyone’s tax dollars for personal desires. Sorry you don’t think it is a big deal. Why Mr Spencer believes that his asking “folks” at school, a teacher and other “community members” is the appropriate fact finding technique is beyond me. The info they provided show they were lacking in understanding of actual costs to educate our children. I went to get the ACTUAL answers from the Santee School District Business Office.
Mary March 29, 2012 at 06:18 AM
Cont’d from above - Over NINE MILLION DOLLARS last year alone came from Santee Property Taxes to supplement funding received from the State of California for each child that attend our Santee schools. The difference between what the state gives our School District and what the actual cost to educate a student, is over $2,500 per year, per student. Somebody is paying that and obviously Mr Spencer is not since he doesn’t live here. I don’t know if he rents or owns his own home, but in either case the tax base he is contributing to is Lakeside, not Santee. In his blogs he has stated he always intended to live in Santee, but that intent appears to be about a decade old by his own story. How many more years does he think the Santee taxpayers should pick up the difference? All this obviously is off the topic of a smoking ban, but it does go to the credibility and intellectual qualifications of a person trying to make changes to Santee’s Municipal Codes.


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