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Morro Bay talks snuffing butts 

Guided by the “success” of San Luis Obispo’s public smoking ordinance and staring into the faces of roughly a dozen children and tweens practically begging the council to take action, the city of Morro Bay began toying with the idea of prohibiting the sucking of cancer sticks in

certain areas.

On Feb. 14, the Morro Bay City Council voted 3-2 to direct city staffers to develop an ordinance that would expand the city’s existing rules, which currently prohibit smoking on beaches and T-piers.

Mayor Bill Yates and Councilman George Leage voted against the proposed ordinance.

The same narrow majority also voted in support of developing a separate ordinance to tighten restrictions on tobacco retailers.

City staffers are expected to present draft ordinances for further discussion at the March 27 meeting, City Attorney Rob Schultz told New Times. He said residents will have a number of opportunities to review and comment on the ordinances.

Council members asked staffers to cover a wide range of areas and facilities in the second-hand smoke ordinance, including outdoor dining areas, public events, recreational areas, sidewalks, and city-owned vehicles.

More than a dozen local elementary and high school students and members of the youth organization Friday Night Live—some in tears—told personal stories of how smoking has impacted their lives.

Councilwoman Nancy Johnson pointed to San Luis Obispo’s ban on public smoking, passed in December 2009, as the model for success, noting that she consulted with members of the SLO Downtown Association, who allegedly reported the ban had little to no effect on business there.

“Smoking is not a right under the state or federal constitution, and it’s being banned more and more all the time,” Johnson said. “I think it’s time that we in Morro Bay take the step that so many others have taken.”

Mayor Bill Yates—admittedly the “lone smoker” on the council—took issue with the claim that SLO’s ban has been a success, noting that he still sees plenty of people smoking publicly in the downtown area more than two years after the city’s ban.

“I don’t know why we need this. I think I speak for most smokers when I say there are considerate smokers and not-considerate smokers,” Yates said. “Honestly, I ignore [the ban] in SLO. … I’m not the only one either; we all know it.”

Police Chief Tim Olivas said enforcing a smoking ban would be difficult, and the department would likely rely on “passive enforcement”—i.e., “peer pressure.”

“We’re dealing with a real slippery slope here, I’ll tell you that,” Councilman Leage said. “You pass an ordinance you can’t enforce. It’s kind of a slap [on] people’s rights. In SLO, it’s a joke.”

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