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San Marcos Taking Steps To Ban Smoking In Outdoor Dining Patios

An ashtray full of cigarette butts sits on a table at Players Sports Grill's outdoor patio in San Marcos. September 14, 2021.
Tania Thorne
An ashtray full of cigarette butts sits on a table at Players Sports Grill's outdoor patio in San Marcos. September 14, 2021.

UPDATE: 2:36 p.m., Sept. 15, 2021

The San Marcos City Council is taking steps to ban smoking and vaping in outdoor dining and patio areas.

The Council on Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of the ban in the first reading of the policy.

“San Marcos is one the last cities in North County to adopt such policy. There's smoke-free outdoor dining policies in the rest of the cities of North County and throughout the county of San Diego,” said Jennifer Gill, a program manager for the tobacco control program with Vista Community Clinic.

She said the proposal aims to protect customers and employees from secondhand smoke exposure.

“It's important that we limit the exposure to these toxic chemicals because we know there's plenty of research out there that it can cause health consequences even after just one single exposure,” Gill said.

Ted Semprini, the owner of Players Sports Grill, has mixed feelings about the proposal.

When COVID-19 restrictions were in place, Semprini set up a designated smoking area for his customers, but littering became a problem.

“If they don't see an ashtray right in front of them, they stomp it, leave it there, or flick it," he said. "That’s what we were seeing during COVID when we made people come outside the patio to smoke. We were spending 15 to 20 minutes a day just on cigarette butts alone."

His other concern is enforcing the policy if it passes.

“It's going to be a very big challenge because I don't want my servers and bartenders, and even myself, to have to take the extra time to now be the cigarette police," Semprini said. "I'm just hoping there are people that know the law and abide by it."

Gill said enforcement will be complaint-driven and law enforcement will not be issuing citations.

“We are going to do outreach to all the restaurants in San Marcos and provide signage, so they'll all get signs they can put out on their patios,” she said.

The ordinance will get a second reading at the Sept. 28 City Council meeting. If passed, the ban could go into effect within 30 days of the second vote.

VIDEO: San Marcos Considers Banning Smoking In Outdoor Dining Patios