Smoking would be banned at county mini-parks and neighborhood parks, in parking lots near county buildings and in other outdoor locales under an ordinance being considered by the county Board of Supervisors.
The proposal, which follows similar laws in several of the county’s cities, will be introduced Tuesday at the Board of Supervisors meeting. A public hearing will take place July 17.
The plan has been in the works for months and has made its way through the Parks and Recreation and Health commissions. The county’s staff sought comments from the public during meetings at Avila Beach, Cayucos, Santa Margarita, Templeton, San Miguel and Shandon.The proposal changed shape as a result of these meetings and has become less restrictive.
Nonetheless, it is the sort of law that became a major issue in the recently concluded campaign for county supervisor.
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Debbie Arnold was elected in the 5th District on June 5 on a platform that opposed the ban on plastic bags and questioned government efforts to regulate particulates at the Oceano Dunes. Those were among other actions that she said constituted overreach by government.
Arnold, however, does not take office until January, at which time she will join Frank Mecham and Paul Teixeira to form a board majority leery of government regulation.
The current board majority of Adam Hill, Bruce Gibson and Jim Patterson — whom Arnold defeated — have backed the plastic bag ban and air pollution studies at the Dunes.
It is that board that will be making the call on the smoking proposal.
Arnold said she believes banning tobacco use puts too many restraints on personal freedoms.
“I ran on a platform of opposing overreaching regulation. I believe this ordinance to be just that,” she said Friday.
“As I understand the ordinance, it would make the use of any tobacco products illegal on county property, including outdoor park and camping facilities,” she said.
The proposal itself is a public health necessity, according to those who drew it up.
“There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke,” according to a report to the board from Health Agency Director Jeff Hamm and General Services Director Janette Pell.
They called the proposal a “wide-reaching effort that would place San Luis Obispo County in the forefront of tobacco-control efforts.”They said they have received complaints from residents and employees about smoking on county grounds.
At one point, as they formulated the plan, there was talk of banning smoking of all tobacco products at all county facilities and parklands. As the public spoke, however, the county modified that blanket proposal.
The current plan calls for a ban at “structures owned, leased, concessioned or otherwise operated directly or indirectly by the county (and) all land appurtenant to those structures, including but not limited to parking lots, walkways, landscapes and patios.”
The proposal would allow the county health officer to designate exemptions, and there is a specific proposal to allow smoking areas at county airports as well as at the psychiatric health facility.
State parks would not be included.
The Hamm-Pell report highlighted some of the comments made during the county’s outreach to various communities.
Those who supported the ban, they wrote, generally believed it would improve personal and public health, cut medical costs, protect against fires, decrease litter and help smokers stop.
Those opposed argued that the ban would infringe on personal rights, cost too much, be unenforceable and hurt tourism and the economy.