By JEFF CLEMETSON | La Mesa Courier
At its Jan. 14 meeting, La Mesa City Council voted to adopt an ordinance that bans smoking in public spaces.
The Change in the municipal code prohibits smoking on public streets, sidewalks, and “unenclosed places of employment.” The smoking ban has only limited exceptions:
- 20% of hotel or motel rooms can be designated smoking rooms.
- Retail or wholesale tobacco shops can allow smoking.
- Private smokers’ lounges, including hookah bars, are exempt.
- Also exempt are any restaurant and/or bar legally operating an outdoor dining or smoking facility continuously for adults not less than 60 days prior to the effective date of the ordinance and not located or encroaching on city property or around right of ways.
Michelle Huey was the lone speaker opposed to the new ordinance. She said the new rule “makes a bold statement that smokers are not wanted in La Mesa.” She added that the ban will adversely affect workers who smoke and will no longer be able to smoke on breaks as well as smokers who live in multi-unit apartments because they can no longer walk outside to smoke.
Several residents spoke in favor of the smoking ban, citing health studies and personal experiences with breathing in other people’s second-hand smoke.
“There is no right to subject the rest of us to harmful substances,” said Janet Castanos.
Monica Zech, said the new ordinance will “make [La Mesa] a more family-friendly city.”
Linda Barber, La Mesa resident and government relations director for American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network said her organization is “thrilled” that this city is increasing smoke-free areas. “People have a right to breathe clean air, but they don’t have a right to smoke — it’s not a constitutional right,” she said and encouraged the city to “expand these protections and not stop here.”
Lorenzo Higley, a CASA representative that supported the smoking ban, said his group worked with the local business community to address concerns, and that CASA will host a La Mesa Conversations meeting to educate public about what is in the ordinance.
Council member Kristine Alessio, who co-sponsored the ordinance along with Council member Dr. Akilah Weber, shared that she is a former smoker of 26 years. “I hope this encourages people to quit smoking because it really made a giant change in my health,” she said.
“We are not trying to tell someone who is an adult that they can or cannot smoke, but what we are trying to do is protect those who do not want to deal with the harmful effects of second hand smoke,” Weber said and likened the new rules to drunk driving laws where adults can drink but not put others at risk by driving intoxicated.
After the discussion, the Council voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance. The rules are set to go into effect sometime in early April.
— Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.