Smokers who want to enjoy their tobacco while maintaining compliance with county law will now find themselves barely within shouting distance of their favorite bar or restaurant.
The Tobacco Control Ordinance, which the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved at a Dec. 4 meeting, is now in effect and requires a 20-foot smoke-free buffer around commercial buildings in unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County – including Isla Vista – where smoking is not allowed.
The ordinance was designed to protect the health of employees who previously worked in smoky environments. It prohibits smoking in certain areas, but allows smoking outside bars, restaurants, and cafes if the smoking sections are far enough from adjacent buildings so that it will not infringe on the air of those buildings’ employees. The new law does not apply to apartment buildings, private residences, or structures on the UCSB campus, which is considered state land.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. Lt. Jim Dollar said the ordinance will probably be enforced only when officers respond to complaints – the same way other smoking ordinances are dealt with, he said.
“Laws are laws, but in reality, officers will probably make citations in response to complaints [from patrons and employees of I.V. businesses],” he said. “Officers could cite offenders without a complaint being made, but most likely a complaint would be placed and then an officer would go to the scene.”
Dollar also said citations would vary from one infraction to the next, and that the courts would determine the exact punishment.
Kathryn Thomson, a tobacco educator at UCSB Student Health, said she supports the ordinance and believes it could lower smoking rates in I.V.
“It’s been shown that the less accessible smoking is, the less people will smoke. California already has the second lowest smoking rate in the nation, and that is due in a large part to laws like the one that banned smoking in restaurants and bars,” she said.
Thomson said the ordinance protects employees who otherwise could not avoid second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke was legally labeled a Group A Carcinogen in 1992, meaning it was determined to be harmful in any amount.
Thomson said a statewide survey in May of 2001 showed that 76 percent of Californians believed the areas around restaurants and bars should be smoke free, however, local reaction was mixed.
“I think it’s kind of annoying because sometimes you might want to smoke on the way to class,” said undeclared freshman Brandi Queller. “But I don’t blame non-smokers, because I wouldn’t want someone else’s smoke in my face either.”
Queller said the 20-foot boundary might be too extreme.
“I don’t think smoke would be that far away,” she said. “There should be some distance, but not quite that much.”
Non-smoking sophomore and engineering major Nathan Alley said citizens should have the freedom to smoke.
“[Smokers are] kind of already restricted enough. They already can’t smoke in restaurants and bars,” he said. “Twenty feet really is into the street in most places. I guess as long as [the smoker] isn’t under an overhang it wouldn’t bother me.”