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Pismo Beach looks to expand ban on smoking in downtown area

Posted at 7:04 PM, Jan 16, 2019

The Pismo Beach City Council is moving forward with plans to expand its existing ban on smoking in public places, joining San Luis Obispo in a more stringent prohibition on the use of cigarettes and e-cigs.

San Luis Obispo was the first in the U.S. to implement a major ban on smoking in public spaces and police began issuing citations in 2010 to those who violated the ban. According to information provided by the San Luis Obispo City Attorney on Wednesday, police issued  86 citations in 2018.

However, the ban in Pismo Beach will be difficult to enforce, according to the city council, and police likely won’t be asked to respond unless a person flat out refuses to stop smoking.

Pismo Beach Mayor Edward Waage said the decision to increase restrictions for smokers comes after the city was given an “F” grade from the American Lung Association.

“So many people are smoking carelessly, discarding cigarette butts and also the second-hand smoke issue,” Waage said.

Waage said community members asked the council to take up the issue, which was last visited in 2007 when the city implemented its original ban prohibiting smoking at parks, the beach and outside public buildings.

But the council now plans to expand the ban to public sidewalks downtown, entryways to restaurants and bars, lines for ATMs and farmers markets.

“I can’t tell an 8-month-old baby to hold their breath, don’t breathe it in,” Councilwoman Marcia Guthrie said at the Tuesday night meeting on the issue.

Guthrie fought for the strictest restrictions, noting the welfare of children who can’t simply walk away from the smoke.

While no community members spoke out at Tuesday’s meeting, Councilwoman Sheila Blake voiced concern about enforcement.

“I don’t believe you’ll have compliance with people who have a habit of smoking,” Blake said. “It’s not like chewing gum. I don’t want to do this, I don’t want any of this.”

The mayor pressed on, saying restaurant owners and locals familiar with the ban will call out rule breakers.

“We don’t have the staff or power to go out and enforce every smoking ordinance everywhere,” Waage said. “But I think the signage and public education program saying it’s not allowed in this area, people will get the hint and stop smoking in those areas.”

The Council directed its city staff to write up an ordinance based on its Tuesday discussion and is expected to cast its final vote on the issue at its next meeting.