Public smoking ban gets initial approval in Laguna Beach


Laguna Beach appears on its way to banning smoking in any public place in town — an action the city says would be the strictest smoking regulation in Orange County.

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously supported a proposed ordinance that would expand a ban that currently covers public areas such as beaches, parks, outdoor dining areas and restrooms.

Under the ordinance, smoking also would not be allowed on sidewalks, streets and alleys and in multi-unit residential common areas such as pools, laundry rooms and hallways.

The council must pass the ordinance on a second reading before it becomes effective.

Electronic cigarettes and other vaporizers also would be prohibited anywhere smoking is not allowed.

Residents have complained to the council and city staff about secondhand smoke on sidewalks and in alleys and parking lots.

Councilman Robert Zur Schmiede said the ordinance “advances civilization.”

“It recognizes smoking is a bad thing,” he said. “The ordinance is already balanced. It still allows smoking in some locations,” such as in or outside a private residence and inside a car.

A handful of Laguna Beach High School students urged the council to support the ordinance, citing not only secondhand smoke but also unsightly used cigarette butts.

“My main reason for supporting this ordinance is limiting secondhand smoke exposure as well as improving ambiance when you go to restaurants,” student Catrin Williams told the council.

Catrin said her family likes eating at Zinc Cafe & Market on Ocean Avenue, which has an outdoor patio.

“Frequently when people get off the bus [at a nearby stop on Broadway Street], they will stand there and take a smoke break,” she said. “That wind carries [the smoke] right over to the restaurant. For my family, that one weekend a month when we go to lunch with my grandma is kind of ruined by that.”

Laguna Beach, like most Orange County cities, received an “F” in an American Lung Assn. 2017 report on overall tobacco control. Nearby cities such as Laguna Woods and Laguna Hills had “C” grades due to more-stringent non-smoking rules for housing and outdoor spaces, according to a Laguna Beach staff report.

For example, Laguna Woods does not allow smoking on balconies or patios of residential facilities, covered and semi-covered carports shared by more than one residential unit, and ticket, boarding and waiting areas for public transportation.

Laguna Hills bans smoking within 20 feet of all outdoor dining and patio areas and on elevators, escalators and stairways.

Laguna Beach’s proposed ordinance allows owners of hotels, motels and bed and breakfast inns to decide whether to allow smoking in areas such as guest rooms and pools.

Some cities have limited the number of motel and hotel rooms that can be reserved for smoking. In Laguna Woods, no more than 20% of rooms can be designated as smoking spaces.

Twitter: @AldertonBryce