San Luis Obispo City Council bans smoking at city parks and Mission Plaza

Smoking and chewing tobacco will soon be banned at San Luis Obispo parks after a City Council decision Tuesday night. The ban could be expanded later to include other outdoor areas of the city.

The council took that unanimous action after audience members overwhelmingly asked them to adopt the park ban, as well as ban smoking on public sidewalks, at the Thursday night Downtown Farmers’ Market and at other outdoor venues.

The item on Tuesday night’s agenda was the ban in parks, but it also applies to Mission Plaza, the nearby downtown creek area and the city’s open space reserves at its edges.

But council members also directed staff to come back with a more comprehensive proposal to ban tobacco in other outdoor areas, including sidewalks, shopping centers and any place outside commercial businesses across the city.

Council members went further than the staff’s recommendation, and the recommendations of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Association. The three had only recommended the park ban.

The council took the action 19 years after San Luis Obispo became the first city in the nation to ban smoking in indoor buildings, businesses and restaurants.

But since that time, many other cities, including Atascadero, Pismo Beach, Morro Bay and Arroyo Grande, have banned tobacco in parks.

“To be honest, I’m a little embarrassed that we led the way with restaurants and we are bringing up the rear now,” Councilman Andrew Carter said.

Staff was asked to come back with language for a more comprehensive ban in three to four months.