Attention, Hermosa Beach smokers: You've been getting off easy for years, but that's all about to change.
The city banned smoking on its beaches and along its popular Pier Plaza nearly four years ago, joining other cities like Santa Monica and Los Angeles in outlawing tobacco in many public places. (It's also illegal to smoke in Hermosa Beach parks, outdoor dining areas and parking lots.)
But Hermosa Beach police officers have let the vast majority of offenders go with only a slap on the wrist. While handing out about 350 warnings a month, city officers issued only a dozen citations for smoking violations in 2013, six in 2014 and 13 last year. Four smokers have been cited so far in 2016, according to police statistics.
Violators can be fined between $100 and $500.
Though many municipalities have enacted smoking bans, it can be difficult to determine how many tobacco-related citations have been issued, said Stanton A. Glantz, director of the UC San Francisco Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.
And citations don't necessarily equal stricter enforcement, he said.
"It's not at all unusual for there not to be a lot of tickets if the government has made it clear to the public they're serious about enforcement," Glantz said. "People start obeying the law."
But, in the near future, people caught lighting up in Hermosa should expect more severe penalties.
City and police officials have started posting "no smoking" signs and are meeting with business owners to remind them of the regulations. Police will give the public some time to adjust, before cracking down around Memorial Day, according to Sharon Papa, the city's police chief.
"It's almost like a relaunch," she said.
It's unclear why Hermosa Beach didn't strictly enforce the smoking regulations earlier, but enforcement "wasn't as comprehensive as we would like," Papa said.