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The city of Encinitas is considering banning the smoking of all tobacco products in public areas. Stock photos/The Coast News graphic
The city of Encinitas is considering banning the smoking of all tobacco products in public areas. Stock photos/The Coast News graphic
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Encinitas takes first steps toward smoking ban in public areas

ENCINITAS — City staff will explore a smoking ban in Encinitas, with the possibility of future public safety ordinances to come out of the city’s Environmental Commission. 

The Encinitas City Council voted unanimously on Sept. 21, with Councilmember Kellie Hinze absent, to initiate a code amendment that would ban smoking of all tobacco products in public areas. 

The potential repercussions of violating the potential Encinitas Municipal Code change would be a fee or other civil violation. 

The motion also included exploring the legality of expanding the ban to moving vehicles in the public right of way. 

The move comes from an Environmental Commission recommendation in efforts to identify and develop strategies to regulate plastic pollution sources — as noted in its work plan goals. 

Several speakers from organizations, such as Clean Earth 4 Kids, American Cancer Society, Surfrider Foundation and others came out in favor of a code change. The council also received several letters from city residents in support. 

Jim Wang, a former environmental commissioner, was one of several advocating for a change in the city. 

“We all know that smoking is no good,” Wang said, encouraged by the current commissioner’s work. “[Cigarette filters] are small and they’re loaded with these toxins that are so bad that the cigarette companies don’t even want us to inhale them.” 

Wang said that there was no proper way to dispose of cigarettes and called on the council to remove exceptions in the staff’s ordinance drafting. The motion included development of a policy change that would eliminate smoking tobacco in public spaces, but leaves out smoking in moving vehicles and private places. 

“No matter how you dispose of that cigarette butt, it’s going to go to the landfill, at best,” he said, adding… “but everything ends up in the ocean.”

In introducing a possible ordinance, Commissioner Mark O’Connor said that cigarette butts make up a large percentage of the trash collected in coastal cleanups. 

More than 35,000 cigarette filters were pickup during the 2020 Coastal Clean Up Day, O’Connor said.  The Surfrider Foundation reported collecting more than 52,700 filters between January 2019 and March 2020 along various beaches in San Diego County. 

Enacting a smoking ban, following suit of 26 other cities in the state, would reduce pollution in the city and for marine environments. 

In its report to the City Council, the Environmental Commission said that filters are made up of 15,000 microplastics, which “are nearly everywhere polluting the food we eat, the water we drink and even the air we breathe.” 

O’Connor told the council that cigarette butts are “pollution that is very easy for us to find,” adding that pictures of the filters around town shown during the presentation were unstaged. 

O’Connor added that only 9% of the state’s population smokes, yet the remnants of their habits count for 38% percent of the trash collected during cleanups. 

Thirty-five year resident Nancy Logan, a representative of San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth, said that children deserve to live in a drug/alcohol environment to “develop to maximum potential.” 

Logan and other residents called on the city to go further, even eliminating the exceptions to cars and private spaces. 

“It’s remarkable that we ever normalized such extensive littering of plastic products in the public right of way,” said Mayor Catherine Blakespear. 

City staff will also be looking to the legality of removing the moving vehicle expiation from the smoking ban. 

Deputy Mayor Joe Mosca also moved to direct the Environmental Commission to explore private property and cigarette butt bans for future consideration.