Though few people have been hanging out on the beach this cold, wet week, the issue of a potential smoking ban on county beaches and parks was the topic of discussion on Tuesday as the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors wrapped up its last agenda item for 2009. After a presentation by Dawn Dunn-a County Public Health Department official-who extolled the benefits of instituting a ban, and public comments overwhelmingly in favor of it, the supervisors voted 5-0 to send the issue to the County Parks Commission for study. “You don’t really want to impose things unless staff is behind it. Not only are they behind it, they’re really excited about it,” said 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf, who sponsored the bill with overwhelming public support. According to surveys taken by the County Health Department, 80 percent of those surveyed were in favor of a ban.
At a time when the county’s budget is less than robust, the signs and educational material required for enforcement already have funding available from grants. Furthermore, said Dunn, such bans have already been instituted widely across the state, including in the cities of Carpinteria and Santa Maria. “We’ve perceived this to be an area where controversy might arise, and information from all around the state shows that enforcement is not a problem,” she said, noting that in Carpinteria and other communities, the high number of people supporting smoking bans has led to a high level of self-enforcement. Based on legal language in ordinances used in other municipalities, the law would most likely carry a fine for violators, but the County Sheriff’s Department has already indicated that it will be a low-priority enforcement issue, though Dunn said that other municipalities issue very few citations. The Parks Commission and county staff should have a draft ordinance for the Board of Supervisors to review early next year.