A 1994 Santa Cruz smoking ban forced smokers to light up outdoors.
Next week, though, even the outdoors will be off-limits.
On October 20, a new smoking ban will go into effect, this time expanding the realm of prohibition. Smoking will not be tolerated in a number of outdoor areas, including city parks, Pacific Avenue, Beach Street and West Cliff Drive, as well as smoking within 25 feet of any door or window of city buildings open to the public.
In 1994, the era of smoking prohibition began in Santa Cruz when smoking was outlawed in restaurants, bars and shops. In addition, smoking was eventually prohibited at city beaches, San Lorenzo Park and Grant Street Park.
Councilman Don Lane explained why he and fellow council members decided to extend the ban to the new areas.
“These are either the most heavily used areas for pedestrians, or they are key recreation areas where we want to provide the healthiest environment possible,” Lane said.
Lane, along with fellow councilmen Mike Rotkin and Ryan Coonerty, proposed the new ban to a committee of city leaders, who unanimously approved it last month.
Rotkin said that the purpose of the ban is threefold: to shield people from second-hand smoke, to reduce the amount of litter and ocean pollution from cigarette butts and to act as an educational function by discouraging people — most importantly the youth — from smoking.
After October 20 there will be a one-month grace period before smokers experience any penalties. After that, people caught smoking in prohibited areas will be cited.
Nancy Gambino, general manager of Noah’s Bagels, is in favor of the ban. She said that she regularly deals with hundreds of cigarette butts that litter the front of her store.
It is the regulation of public air space that garners the most controversy. Some feel it is difficult to decide whose rights take precedence — the right of the smoker to smoke or the right of the nonsmoker to breathe clean air.
Andrew Herbig, a Monterey native and UC Santa Cruz alum, is one such citizen. Herbig said he understands that the new bans aim at fostering a more family-oriented environment.
“At the same time, I am wary of people telling people what they can and can’t do,” Herbig said.
Monica Kaust, owner of Baby Shoppe Santa Cruz, expressed a sigh of relief for the pregnant moms and babies who frequent, or visit, her store. She was concerned that her customers were being affected by people who smoke in the outside dining area of the restaurant next door.
In cases where two groups of people have conflicting rights, Rotkin stresses the necessity of having “reasonable balance” — which is why the new bans cover only areas of congestion and not the entire city.
Jair Espinoza, a first-year Cabrillo College student, said that he is still going to be smoking.
“I spend most of my time downtown. I think the ban is silly,” Ezpinoza said.
Downtown smokers like Espinoza may hold on to such opinions until the grace period is up — but thereafter they’ll have to decide if a $25 citation each time they light up is worth it.