LAGUNA BEACH : Cigarette Vending Machines Banned

As the city's anti-smoking controversy slowly reheats, the City Council voted this week to ban all cigarette vending machines.

Council members said they hope that the ordinance, believed by city officials to be the first of its kind in the county, will keep cigarettes out of the hands of teen-agers.

"Access to the (cigarette) machines is not controllable," Councilwoman Ann Christoph said. "If we can't completely limit access to cigarettes for teen-agers, maybe we can prevent some of them from buying them."

The ordinance approved Tuesday night came from a task force appointed by the council last year. After facing furious opposition from local hotel and restaurant owners in November, a stringent anti-smoking law was tabled and the panel was formed to further study the issue.

However, the same group that opposed the smoking ban said Wednesday that they are solidly behind the ban of cigarette machines.

"That was our own recommendation to begin with," said Claes Andersen, owner of the Hotel Laguna and president of the Laguna Beach Hospitality Assn., a group of hoteliers and restaurateurs. Cigarette machines "are very difficult to patrol. If you don't stand there 24 hours a day, you can't do it."

Councilwoman Martha Collison, the lone vote against the cigarette machine ban, said that using automated cigarette vendors is a matter of individual rights.

"We have the choice: we can smoke or not smoke," she said. "Banning cigarette machines is not going to stop them from smoking."

Collison supported restricting cigarette machines to bars, where minors are not permitted.

Meanwhile, a revamped anti-smoking ordinance may come before the council in the near future, she said.

Two weeks ago, the task force sent the council a plan that would eliminate smoking in 80% of the dining and hotel establishments in Laguna Beach by 1994. The council asked the panel to continue working on a time frame to eliminate indoor smoking in public places.

The task force is expected to return with a new report in about two weeks, Collison said.

Opponents of the smoking ban will meet Wednesday to discuss the task force's findings, Andersen said.

Laguna Beach already has one of the tightest anti-smoking laws in the county. Currently, 60% of all seats in restaurants must be set aside for nonsmokers. Newport Beach and Dana Point require that 20% of restaurant space be earmarked for nonsmokers. A proposed no-smoking ban in Mission Viejo failed last year.

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