In a month, it will be tougher to smoke outside in public areas of Morro Bay.
Stopping short of the outright ban that was originally proposed, the Morro Bay City Council on Tuesday voted to forbid smoking within 20 feet of entranceways, vents and other places where smoke could enter an enclosed area.
The rules also allow for the establishment of smokers’ outposts, designated outdoor areas where smoking would be allowed. They also require that no-smoking signs be posted in areas where smoking is prohibited.
The vote was 3-2, with Mayor Bill Yates and Councilman George Leage voting no. The new rules will take effect May 25.
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Supporters of the new rules said they are an attempt to strike a balance between protecting public health and not overburdening businesses. Councilwoman Nancy Johnson said the rules will allow business owners to ask people not to smoke in front of their establishments.
The rules do not establish licensing requirements or fees for those merchants who sell tobacco products. However, a second set of rules covering those requirements is expected at a later date, Yates said.
By establishing 20-foot no-smoking zones rather than adopting an outright ban, the council may have averted a challenge at the ballot box. Brian Schrier of the petition management company US Petitions said some business owners were prepared to challenge any comprehensive ban with a referendum.
Ten percent of registered voters in the city, or 645, must sign a petition to place a referendum on the ballot, he said. Voters would then decide the matter in an upcoming election.
With the new rules, Morro Bay becomes the latest city in the county to regulate smoking outside. San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande and Pismo Beach also have rules banning smoking in public places.