Newport smoking ban progresses

NEWPORT BEACH — Smokers strolling in a city park may face a citation if the Newport Beach City Council approves a ban proposed at Tuesday's study session.

By a 4-3 straw vote, the council members gave preliminary approval to banning smoking in public parks and open spaces. Already, smokers are barred from lighting up on beaches, piers and the boardwalk.

Newport's action follows other cities' efforts to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke. In February, New York approved a smoking ban in its parks. And in September, Santa Monica prohibited smoking near apartment buildings.

"We are going to say in areas where people gather to relax and recreate that's not an area where you can smoke," Councilwoman Nancy Gardner said in September, when the city's Environmental Quality Affairs Committee approved the ban. "I don't think we're asking too much."

The ordinance considered by the committee would prohibit smoking in public parks, except in designated areas. Those designated areas would be away from sports courts, baseball diamonds, playgrounds or areas of high fire risk.

Included in the ban would be open spaces like the Upper Newport Nature Preserve.

Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, who represents the eastside of the Back Bay, said that some areas were so wide open that any health risks would be minimal.

"At the end of the day, it becomes more about people trying to control other peoples' behavior than legitimate health impacts," she said.

Nancy Skinner, an environmentalist who spoke at the meeting, said she is annoyed when people smoke near her.

"It would certainly be nice to have the beauty of an open space location and a park," she said, while "not having an intrusion of someone's habit."

The ban will have to be brought before the council for a formal vote, on a date yet to be determined.

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