Paso Robles moves to tighten rules for smoking tobacco and marijuana

Paso Robles is tightening smoking regulations.
Paso Robles is tightening smoking regulations. AP

Paso Robles smokers may soon have fewer places to light up, thanks to tighter restrictions being considered by the City Council.

Council members on Tuesday unanimously approved an ordinance prohibiting marijuana and tobacco smoking in certain spaces throughout the city. The ordinance will return to the council for a final reading and vote on Feb. 21.

Police Chief Robert Burton said Wednesday that the city hasn’t updated its smoking regulations since 1988 and has the fewest restrictions of any community in San Luis Obispo County. The November passage of Proposition 64 — a state ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana use in California — prompted the city to amend its current smoking rules, Burton said.

“We knew we didn’t have an ordinance,” Burton said. “We knew we needed to get something more comprehensive.”

State law has banned smoking in areas such as playgrounds, workplaces, bars and restaurants since the early 2000s. Gov. Jerry Brown in May signed a law that raised the smoking age from 18 to 21 and classified e-cigarettes and vaping devices as tobacco products.

If council members give the ordinance their final approval in two weeks, tobacco product use — including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars and pipes — would be prohibited in city-owned buildings and enclosed public places, as well as at all outdoor events and city-owned parks, trails and sports facilities. Tobacco smokers also would need to stay at least 20 feet away from the entrance or exit of any commercial establishment and avoid lighting up in common areas of multi-unit residential buildings.

Under the ordinance, marijuana users would be prohibited from smoking in any public place where tobacco use is banned. In addition, marijuana users would not be permitted to smoke on city property, including streets, sidewalks, trails, bike paths, alleys, highways and parking lots and structures.

Marijuana smoking would be banned on the grounds of schools or day care centers and while driving or riding in a vehicle. Smokers would have to stay at least 1,000 feet away from schools and day care centers, unless they’re using marijuana in a private residence.

Burton said the city would enforce the new ordinance by placing nonsmoking signs in well-traveled public areas, such as parks and trails. He said the rules would primarily be enforced on a complaint basis, and smokers in prohibited areas could be issued a ticket for violating a municipal code.

The city is trying to strike a balance between allowing some smoking and preventing residents from being exposed to secondhand smoke, Burton said.

“It’s meant to be protective of the residents in the community,” he said.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseyholden27