San Luis Obispo's public smoking ban goes into effect Thursday

A new law that bans smoking from nearly all public places in San Luis Obispo starts Thursday.

Under the new law smoking is prohibited in indoor and outdoor areas frequented by the public, including sidewalks, parking garages, bars, restaurants, stores, stadiums, playgrounds and transit centers.

Lighting up in outdoor areas is also banned in areas that are within 20 feet of indoor areas. Exceptions include private residential units and designated hotel rooms, existing tobacco retailers, and outdoor areas in which no nonsmoker is present.

Bars that don't serve food could designate a smoking area located at least five feet from any doorway. The San Luis Obispo City Council approved the new law in April, following a vote in December to ban smoking in Mission Plaza, the downtown creek area and the city's parks. The citywide ban puts San Luis Obispo in the same class with two dozen other California cities that have banned smoking from all areas frequented by the public, including multi-unit residential areas. San Luis Obispo became the first city in the nation to ban indoor smoking in public places 20 years ago.

Currently, more than 100 cities have adopted more stringent ordinances prohibiting smoking from outdoor recreation areas. Locally, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Morro Bay and Pismo Beach have banned smoking from public parks, beaches, open space, sports facilities, skate parks, biking trails and dog parks. Police will not actively enforce the smoking ban but may issue citations for violations.

--AnnMarie Cornejo