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Stage Set For Smoking Ban In Most Parts Of Coronado

Smoking in outdoor patio areas at restaurants may have been the biggest issue of contention at the meeting Tuesday. A lack of public places to smoke may force people into alleys if designated smoking areas are not established, city staff said.

Bags of cigarettes picked up in San Diego city parks as part of SAY San Diego's Live and Play Smoke Free Project.  The group collected 42,757 butts in 24 parks over two months in 2008 and 50,347 in 2009.  The City of San Diego passed a smoking ban in city parks and beaches in 2006.

Above: Bags of cigarettes picked up in San Diego city parks as part of SAY San Diego's Live and Play Smoke Free Project. The group collected 42,757 butts in 24 parks over two months in 2008 and 50,347 in 2009. The City of San Diego passed a smoking ban in city parks and beaches in 2006.

In response to complaints by residents near a bar first shared with the city in January, City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to ban smoking in certain areas including in outdoor dining areas primarily on public property, all sidewalks and within 25 feet of outdoor dining areas, parks and beaches.

Councilman Richard Bailey voted against the measure because he disagreed with the city telling businesses on a mix of public and private land what they can do. He also questioned how the law will be enforced.

"If we were going to ban smoking in all areas and all sidewalks where are the smokers going to go? They're going to smoke somewhere," he said. "I'm not sure from a practical standpoint how we're going to support this."

Assistant City Manager Tom Ritter warned that a ban in public places including sidewalks could force people into alleys or lead to the need to designate smoking areas, an issue that was not addressed Tuesday.

The proposed changes to the city's smoking ordinance will be written by city staff and brought back to City Council at a later date for approval.

Under the changes prescribed by City Council, people would still be allowed to smoke on construction sites and at restaurants on private property like the Coronado Yacht Club and McP's Irish Pub.

Smoking is currently not allowed under local law at beaches, parks and sidewalks adjacent to parks, however Coronado has some of the least restrictive smoking laws among cities in San Diego County, according to analysis by city staff. Proposed changes may give Coronado some of the most stringent anti-smoking laws among any city in San Diego County.

The vote for a change in city law took place after a public hearing and online survey to gauge the opinions of local residents and businesses.

More than 280 people responded to an online survey in the last month, the majority of whom support a ban in all public places.

Michael O'Connor with Coronado Firehouse was the only business owner who responded to a survey. Smoking near the Firehouse prompted nearby residents to urge City Council to take a second look at its smoking ordinance.

"The city should not get into the business of making these decisions," he stated in his response to the survey. "Let the restaurants make their own policies. Ultimately the consumer will/should have the final say."

Public comments heard in City Council chambers Tuesday were almost entirely in favor of stronger regulation.

Don Bruiser, co-owner of Coronado Candy Factory in the 1100 block of Orange Avenue. Bruiser said he and his wife make a lot of their products on-site and that he's tired of smoke flowing into his business from a nearby cafe.

"I wish they would voluntarily do it but for those of us who are close to those who do not voluntarily do it, we are victims," he said.

9 of 55 restaurants in Coronado allow smoking in outdoor dining areas including McP's Irish Pub and Grill and Coronado Yacht Club which are both on private property, Ritter said.

"In the interest of public health and for the benefit of diners, employers and pedestrians MainStreet Board of Directors supports a ban on smoking in outdoor dining areas and sidewalks in the business district," said Rita Sarich with the business group Coronado MainStreet.

City law currently allows for some businesses to apply for an exemption and allow smoking.

"We haven't given any exceptions currently because right now we don't have a very restrictive smoking ordinance," Ritter said.

The Coronado Municipal Golf Course is the only public place where no smoking rules would not apply.

Marilyn Field said she would like to see a total ban of smoking in all public places in Coronado.

"You just voted today to be part of the Live Well, San Diego health initiative and smoking is one of the bad behaviors that cause community health problems," she said. "I urge the broadest possible ordinance. I'd love to see smoking banned everywhere we can ban it."

Members of the American Lung Association and American Cancer Society urged the city to adopt a ban.

Former Mayor of Solana Beach and American Lung Association representative Joe Kellejian said personal rights are an issue for people who don't smoke and restaurant employees, not just smokers.

"I realize that many have concerns about individual rights and liberties of those who smoke. I too have individual rights. I value the rights of the 90 percent of the people in the state of California who do not smoke," he said.

After discussion and vote by City Council Kellejian said he thought the city should have focused more on public health than businesses.

"I'm disappointed they didn't take it as a health issue," he said.

The majority of cities in San Diego County already restrict smoking in outdoor dining areas, according to analysis by Coronado city staff. Solana Beach has some of the most restrictive laws for smoking in public behind Del Mar and El Cajon who ban smoking in all public outdoor areas.

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