Editorials

Sorry, SLO, you’re no longer the toughest city on smoking

He’s owned a tobacco shop for 26 years. A new ban could put him out of business.

Doug Shaw, owner of Sanctuary Tobacco in San Luis Obispo, says he would likely retire if California legislators pass a law banning the sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products.
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Doug Shaw, owner of Sanctuary Tobacco in San Luis Obispo, says he would likely retire if California legislators pass a law banning the sale of flavored tobacco and e-cigarette products.

In 1990, the city of San Luis Obispo led the nation — maybe even the world — in banning smoking in all indoor public places.

The city became the poster child in the fight against secondhand tobacco smoke; many other jurisdictions followed suit by banning smoking in bars, restaurants and other public places where it was once commonplace to light up.

But that was then. This is now, and while San Luis Obispo is still known for its emphasis on health and the environment, it earned a B grade in the American Lung Association’s annual State of Tobacco Control Report.

The city was outscored by 39 other jurisdictions that earned A’s, the closest being unincorporated Santa Barbara County, though the city of Santa Barbara rated only a C.

The ranking is based on several criteria, including whether cities restrict outdoor smoking, limit the sale of tobacco products and whether they ban smoking in multi-family housing projects.

SLO did far better than other communities in San Luis Obispo County.

Two cities — Atascadero and Pismo Beach — got F’s.

Morro Bay earned a D, and Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Paso Robles passed with C’s. The unincorporated county also earned a C.

It’s especially disappointing that some local cities still lag in banning smoking outdoors.

According to the report, Arroyo Grande, Atascadero, Pismo Beach and Paso Robles don’t prohibit smoking on sidewalks. And those same four cities — plus Grover Beach and the unincorporated county — don’t restrict smoking in outdoor dining areas. (Pismo Beach has been considering expanding its outdoor smoking ban to include sidewalks and outdoor dining areas.)

Overall, though, restrictions on smoking in multi-family housing projects were the weakest category for local cities.

Only two — SLO and Paso Robles — received any points in that category for requiring smoke-free common areas.

State law doesn’t restrict smoking in multi-family housing, but the American Lung Association sees it as a necessary step.

“Secondhand smoke exposure in multi-unit housing is a serious health threat because secondhand smoke drifts into housing units from other units, balconies, patios and common areas,” the report says.

That’s a concern that’s been largely overlooked, and it’s something all local agencies should consider closely.

First, though, we strongly urge cities that are behind the curve on restricting smoking in outdoor areas to catch up — D’s and F’s just aren’t acceptable when it comes to protecting public health.

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