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Laguna Beach looks at banning smoking in all public places

“One of the basic rights I have is to travel and be in any public area; another right I have is to breathe clean and non-toxic air,” said Councilman Steve Dicterow, shown here in a file photo.

“One of the basic rights I have is to travel and be in any public area; another right I have is to breathe clean and non-toxic air,” said Councilman Steve Dicterow, shown here in a file photo.

(Don Leach / Daily Pilot)

The list of places where Laguna Beach bans smoking is apparently getting longer.

The city currently bans smoking at public parks and beaches and in restaurants, the Act V lot, elevators, public transportation vehicles, hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

On Tuesday, the City Council supported extending the list to all public places — including alleys, bike paths, sidewalks, parking lots and plazas — as well as common areas of multi-unit residences.

In a unanimous vote, the council directed staff to return with a draft ordinance. Electronic cigarettes and vaporizers would be treated as tobacco products under the new rules and be similarly banned in those areas..

“One of the basic rights I have is to travel and be in any public area; another right I have is to breathe clean and non-toxic air,” Councilman Steve Dicterow said.

Residents had contacted city staff and council members about the presence of secondhand smoke in public places such as sidewalks and parking lots, according to a staff report.

Mayor Toni Iseman said she received emails from a resident in Arch Beach Heights whose 3-year-old son had an asthma attack triggered by a neighbor smoking on a balcony.

Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed a package of tobacco-related bills that included raising the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 and classifying electronic smoking devices as tobacco products. This effectively bars them in places where tobacco smoking is prohibited, such as restaurants, bars, public transit and playgrounds.

But since Laguna’s current law does not address e-cigarettes, they are allowed in certain public places not covered by state law, such as parks, beaches and the Act V lot. That would change with passage of an ordinance.

E-cigarettes are not allowed in indoor or outdoor seating areas of restaurants because state law covers those types of businesses.

Seventy-five percent of respondents to a community survey last year in Laguna said they favored a citywide ban on smoking in all public places.

E-cigarettes and vaporizers, typically powered by batteries, are filled with liquid nicotine or other products and utilize a vapor inhaler, according to the report.

In a January 2015 report, the California Department of Public Health said the aerosol produced by electronic smoking devices contains at least 10 chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm.

“Any substance containing nicotine is not 100% safe, but electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco, a carcinogenic ingredient, and they do not produce smoke,” according to a statement on the Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Assn. website. “Numerous studies support that an overwhelming majority of tobacco-related deaths are a result of the smoke produced and inhaled by users, not nicotine.”

Efforts to reach the Washington, D.C.-based group for a comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Boyd said he was concerned with enforcement of a new ordinance, particularly with tourists who visit Laguna and are not aware of the rules.

“I’m very concerned about trying to get people to react to this and how are we going to enforce it,” Boyd said. “If our police are running around and chasing people smoking and not doing other things they should be doing, we’re going to have some problems.”

Council members suggested signage as a way to alert people to a new law.

bryce.alderton@latimes.com

Twitter: @AldertonBryce


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