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Del Mar still fine-tuning new smoking ban laws

DEL MAR — Smokers will have a few extra weeks to puff away in Del Mar. Council members began the process to update the city’s smoking ordinance at the Sept. 21 meeting, but at staff’s request, continued the item until Oct. 5.
Planning Manager Adam Birnbaum said he was prepared to introduce a “fairly detailed” document but requested more time to cross reference it with other sections of the municipal code and make it more comprehensive.
Meanwhile, staff will make minor changes to the amended ordinance to include input provided during the Sept. 21 meeting.
The city’s existing smoking ordinance was adopted in 1993. Although it has been amended several times, portions are outdated. The amended code, prompted by requests to prohibit smoking in outdoor cafes, will include restrictive state laws that have been implemented since the city last made changes.
In July, council members discussed a list of options for inclusion in the ordinance, which will expand the locations where smoking is banned to all indoor and outdoor eating areas, on city sidewalks and adjacent streets, on city-owned property and at or near bus shelters. Vending machines that sell tobacco products, mobile tobacco sales and the distribution of free samples and coupons also will be prohibited.
Council declined to implement tobacco retailer regulations that could reduce sales to minors because of the administrative efforts. They also said they didn’t believe tobacco sales to minors was an ongoing problem in the city.
Judi Strang of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth disagreed, saying decoy operations in Del Mar have resulted in sales to minors.
Eliminated from the draft ordinance was a provision that would have established smokers’ outposts on private property.
“The rationale for this was that … smoking is an addictive activity,” Birnbaum said. “There will be people who will continue to want to smoke. We want to make sure that if they do so, they do so in areas where it minimizes the potential impacts of second-hand smoke on nonsmokers.”
Resident Rick Ehrenfeld, who described the amended code as “a good leap forward” and “a little bit overdue,” didn’t support the outposts. “There’s not enough guidelines in there to make it work,” he said.
“Let’s create a process that’s ironclad so that we don’t come back next year and someone says, ‘I lived next to a parking lot before … and now people are hanging out there at all hours of the night … and they say it’s our right to hang out here because this is our outpost.’”
The city attorney is researching an option to possibly ban cigarette sales in the city. Her findings will be reported at the Oct. 5 meeting, when a first reading of the new ordinance is planned. Residents who want to provide additional input are encouraged to attend.