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The Encinitas City Council has approved a ban on smoking in all public places. The Coast News graphic
The Encinitas City Council has approved a ban on smoking in all public places. The Coast News graphic
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Encinitas bans smoking in all public places

ENCINITAS — The city of Encinitas now has one of the strictest anti-smoking ordinances in Southern California after expanding a public smoking ban earlier this month.

The Encinitas City Council on Feb. 15 approved an amendment to an existing ban on smoking at public beaches, parks and trails to include all public places throughout the city.

The law will go into effect 90 days after officially being adopted into the city code and includes traditional tobacco products, electronic cigarettes and cannabis products.

Last summer, the Environmental Commission previously recommended the council adopt a smoking ban in all public places. Following that move, the council directed staff to look into modeling the smoking ban after a similar ban in Manhattan Beach, which includes prohibiting smoking inside moving vehicles.

After analyzing the logistics behind implementing and enforcing such a ban, staff recommended that the city’s new smoking ban make an exception for smoking in moving vehicles due to the difficulties of notifying and enforcing non-residents in town. Smoking in parked cars, however, is still prohibited by the new law, including in parking lots.

The only places where smoking is now acceptable in Encinitas are moving vehicles, private residences and up to 20% of guest rooms in any hotel or motel. Businesses with a designated smoking area at least 20 feet away from the main public area can also maintain those spaces.

Signs warning of the new law will be posted throughout the city, and businesses are required to post signage within the 90 days.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department will be in charge of enforcing the ban. First-time offenses will include a $50 fine and increase by another $50 for each offense after.

“The purpose of the ordinance is to protect the coastal environment from hazardous and toxic plastic pollution – cigarette butts and vape cartridges – and then secondarily to improve or protect public health,” said Sustainability Manager Crystal Najera.

According to the Surfrider Foundation, cigarette butts comprise between 20% and 30% of the litter found during beach cleanups. Based on health and environmental concerns, the ordinance received significant support from the community.

“We do not need more smoke in the air in any way,” said Vanessa Forsythe of CleanEarth4Kids.

But not everyone is happy about the new law.

“I’m a smoker and I don’t smoke around any other people,” said Eli Stern.

Some also noted the law conflicts with individuals’ constitutional rights, however the council felt that the rights of non-smokers also need to be considered.

“I still understand the argument about rights, but the question is does the smoker infringe on other people’s rights,” said Councilmember Bruce Ehlers. “The emitted smoke that gets to other people is enough of an impact.”

Deputy Mayor Joy Lyndes said the law addresses a “nexus” between environmental, public and personal health.

“When you can improve all three with one action I think you’ve got something very special,” Lyndes said. “This is a good example of something that elevates us as a community.”

The City Council approved the new smoking ban in a 3-0 vote. Both Mayor Tony Kranz and Councilmember Kellie Hinze were absent.