The San Luis Obispo City Council approved a ban on smoking at public parks and outdoor recreation areas last Friday, expanding the previous ordinance that made the city the first place in the world to outlaw smoking in indoor areas, restaurants and bars in 1990.
The new ordinance that includes Mission Plaza and the creek walk was first discussed during a council meeting in December 2008 when members decided to update smoking regulations in light of new research.
Principle Administrative Analyst Brigitte Elke and a team that researched and prepared the current ordinance considered second-hand smoke, fire hazard zones, citizen complaints and the environmental impact of litter caused by the disposal of tobacco products in the new study.
“What we did in 1990 was way ahead of its time and since then the state has regulated more areas,” Elke said. “Most cities have taken additional steps and now we have added the ordinance.”
Other local cities like Atascadero and Pismo Beach have passed similar ordinances prohibiting smoking at public parks, state beaches and the Charles Paddock Zoo. Statewide, large population centers such as Santa Monica and Pasadena have banned smoking in all outdoor areas that includes events like Farmers Market and the Rose Parade.
Some residents like Dottie Smith, 71, who smoked for 50 years but quit a year and a half ago, empathize with those who feel the need to smoke because of their tobacco addictions. The ordinance was a great way to protect the health of residents and she said she is interested to see how the new ordinance will be enforced.
Second-hand smoke has caused an estimated 46,000 deaths from heart disease in non-smoking adults and up to 300,000 lung infections in children annually, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Report in 2006.
“Just the smell of the second-hand smoke is offensive to me. It stinks,” Bernita Meyers, 87, said
According to a survey conducted last year by the California Department of Health Services, 86 percent of San Luis Obispo residents said they did not smoke which is two percent lower that average California cities. On average businesses pay $111,585 for loss of productivity and health care expenditures caused by smoking.
Cal Poly political science senior Natalie Lewis said she often feels uncomfortable on smoke breaks when she receives harsh stares and has been yelled at, “Butts kill!” by people driving by.
“I understand their concerns but sometimes smokers are treated as second-class citizens and are being forced to smoke in dark corners,” Lewis said.
The council hopes to later expand the ordinance to include banning smoking outside businesses and in lines at theaters and ATMs during the March council meeting. However, some residents like Douglas Shaw Sanctuary Tobacco Shop owner , fear that by furthering the ban will infringe on citizens’ personal rights.
“I have mixed emotions about it. I am grateful I can go to a bar and restaurant (and not breathe smoke),” Shaw said. “But if you have your own business or store you should have the right to do what you want even if that means lighting up a cigar or cigarette.”
The council will make its decision on the future ordinance in March when the staff submits a more detailed proposal.