SOLANA BEACH — Having already enacted some of the county’s most stringent smoking laws, Solana Beach council members recently discussed the possibility of making tobacco use in the city even more restrictive.
At the April 28 meeting, at the request of Councilmen Joe Kellejian and Dave Roberts, staff presented additional measures to regulate smoking and its secondhand effects on the community.
They included banning smoking at all public events and on all sidewalks and pedestrian walkways in commercial areas, prohibiting the distribution of free or discounted tobacco products and requiring vendors to obtain a conditional use permit.
The city could also consider enacting ordinances that promote smoke-free housing in multiunit buildings. Although council members supported such a move, most agreed it could potentially cause controversy and be difficult to enforce.
Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said it would be “horrible” to live adjacent to a smoker. “(But) is it our job to be legislating people’s personal behavior?” she asked. “I’m just not sure.”
Michelle Slingerland, public affairs manager for the San Diego County Apartment Association, commended the city for the steps it has taken to reduce smoke exposure.
“I’m sure you can appreciate that people are a little bit less receptive to the idea of being told that they can’t do something in the privacy of their own homes that is otherwise a legal activity,” she said. “There are a number of complicated factors when you want to implement a no-smoking policy (with housing).”
A smoke-free housing ordinance could include two provisions that council members generally supported. One would require landlords to disclose to potential new tenants the number of units that permit smoking. Another would allow residents to pursue legal action if a person chooses not to adhere to the restrictions.
“I think we should give private citizens tools if they have smoke coming through an apartment wall and they want to sue their neighbor because it’s a nuisance and it’s polluting their children’s lungs,” Roberts said. “They ought to have that right. It doesn’t have to involve the city at all.”
Solana Beach banned smoking in its indoor restaurants years ago and was the first city in the continental United States to prohibit smoking on its beaches. Last summer new laws were enacted that prohibit smoking in all indoor and outdoor dining areas and bars, elevators, public transportation, theaters, museums, galleries, farmers markets, public arenas, child care and sports facilities, and within 20 feet of all entryways.
“Basically anywhere that the general public could be for their daily lives … we have enacted a ban to help their health,” City Attorney Johanna Canlas said.
Each year the American Lung Association grades California cities on their smoking ordinances. Solana Beach went from an F in 2008 to a B in 2009, primarily because of the recent new laws. It was one of only 15 jurisdictions to receive a B. Only four cities in the state earned an A.
Kathleen Sullivan of the American Lung Association said a main goal of the report card is to push for change. She also said limiting the effects of secondhand smoke should not be the responsibility of nonsmokers.
“The onus should not be on the people who breathe the air but on the people who pollute it,” she said.
With limited funds and staff time, it will likely be a while before any changes are made to the current ordinance, but council members agreed to address the measures during their work-plan discussion. Most had issues with many details of the proposed new laws.
“I think it’s worthy of discussion but I think we need to move very carefully and cautiously … and get a lot of input,” Mayor Tom Campbell said.