Encinitas may extend no-smoking ban to sidewalks and streets

Encinitas is considering banning smoking in all public places.
(Don Boomer / San Diego Union-Tribune)

It may become illegal to smoke anywhere but on private property in Encinitas under a proposal that’s now undergoing city review.

Acting on the recommendation of the city’s Environmental Commission, the City Council directed city staff to develop an ordinance that would expand the city’s current ban on smoking in public places to include sidewalks and roadways. The vote was 4-0, with Councilmember Kellie Hinze absent.

“First and foremost, this is about public health” — people’s health and that of the ocean, Councilmember Joe Mosca said as he listed his reasons for supporting the proposal last week.

Mosca made his comments after Environmental Commissioner Mark O’Connor gave a slideshow featuring photographs of discarded cigarette butts on sidewalks, washed into storm drains and sitting on the beach. His presentation even included a cigarette butt being fed by a mother bird to her baby. He told the council he had zero trouble collecting evidence of cigarette trash for his presentation and warned them that once they start looking for cigarette litter, they too will see butts everywhere.


“It’s pretty easy.... First storm drain I looked at there was one going right in … this is a pollution that’s very easy for us to find,” O’Connor said.

In fact, he said, it’s the number one type of litter picked up at beach cleanup events. Between January 2019 and March 2020, the Surfrider Foundation collected 52,722 cigarette butts from San Diego County beaches. On a five-minute walk from Cornish Drive to Swami’s Beach, you can find more than 250 discarded butts, O’Connor said.

Encinitas already bans smoking at parks, beaches and trails. People also are barred from smoking in or within 20 feet of a restaurant’s outdoor patio dining area. Those prohibitions have been in place since 2014.

The new proposal would ban smoking on sidewalks, roadways or other public spaces. Once the staff puts the proposed ordinance together, it will need to come back to the council for approval.

The Environmental Commission recommended that the council adopt an ordinance modeled on one in Manhattan Beach, which prohibits smoking of all tobacco products in public spaces. It exempts private residential properties and moving vehicles.

Councilmembers asked why Manhattan Beach made an exemption for people smoking in cars.

“Maybe that shouldn’t be an exemption,” Councilmember Joy Lyndes said, mentioning that she believes that a fair percentage of the discarded cigarette butts found along area roadways are tossed out of vehicles.

City Atty. Tarquin Preziosi told her that he would need to look into whether there was a legal reason for the exemption. If there isn’t, then let’s not include it, councilmembers told him.

They also asked city staff to look into how enforcement would be handled, saying they wanted better compliance than they’ve had with the city’s ban on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. Mosca said he wanted lots of education and public noticing, “and very slight penalties early on.”