SOLANA BEACH — Smoking will no longer be permitted at all Solana Beach bars, outdoor dining areas, farmers markets, playgrounds, recreational areas, sports arenas and the coastal rail trail after a unanimous City Council vote at the June 24 meeting that expanded the city’s smoking ordinance.
To decrease the accessibility of tobacco products to minors, the ordinance also prohibits the sale of tobacco in vending machines and requires tobacco retailers to be licensed by the city. Licensing fees will be set at a later date.
According to the staff report, cities with similar laws have reported significant decreases in the illegal sale of such products to minors. The new law will also reduce the number of designated smoking rooms in hotels from 50 percent to 25 percent.
Councilman Dave Roberts said he wanted to ensure the amended code is as comprehensive as possible, so he asked that it also ban smoking within 20 feet of any public entryway. Councilwoman Lesa Heebner wanted it to include street fairs such as Fiesta del Sol. The city attorney said both requests would be added before the amended code is presented for final adoption.
Resident Robert Wilson said he agreed with 99 percent of the ordinance, but expressed concerns about restaurants possibly losing customers. “I’m not rallying for smokers,” he said. “(But) I wouldn’t want to hurt those businesses.”
Barbara Gordon from the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth presented results from an informal survey indicating smoke-free eating areas could actually attract customers rather than deter them.
Gordon said when youth from her organization asked 100 people in Solana Beach if they were bothered by smoke when eating outside, 85 said yes. When asked what they would do if someone sitting next to them lit a cigarette, 51 respondents said they would ask to sit somewhere else, 17 would hurry up and leave, 15 would do nothing and six would ask the server to handle it. Surprisingly, only nine respondents said they would ask the smoker to put out the cigarette. Gordon said 76 people agreed smoking shouldn’t be allowed in outdoor eating areas, and 69 said there were not enough restaurants with smoke-free outside eating sections.
John Cavanaugh asked council if the new law could also be expanded to address another problem. He displayed a plastic bag containing 589 cigarette butts he said he collected that day from a 300-foot area in front of his property at 152-202 N. Cedros Ave.
Cavanaugh said they were mainly from taxi drivers who park in front of his property while waiting for the designated cab spaces across the street to become available.
Mayor Mike Nichols said council is aware of the problem and staff is working on solutions. City Manager David Ott said the issue will be addressed in litter ordinance revisions he plans to present to council this fall.
Councilman Joe Kellejian, who along with Roberts asked staff to look into amending the smoking ordinance, said the move is part of the continuing trend against smoking.
“This wave is coming,” Kellejian said. “This wave is going throughout the state of California and it’s not going to stop.”
Solana Beach banned smoking in its indoor restaurants in 1992. In 2003 it became the first city in the continental United States to prohibit smoking on its beaches. “We’re lifesavers,” Kellejian said.