San Luis Obispo County supervisors split 3-2 on a decision to ban smoking at county facilities.
On July 17, Supervisors Frank Mecham and Paul Teixeira voted against the majority—Bruce Gibson, Jim Patterson, and Adam Hill—who went with a staff recommendation to prohibit smoking in all properties that surround county facilities, as well as some areas of county parks.
“I think it is an important time for us to lead on this,” Gibson said.
While no one publicly advocated for smoking, some members of the public and county officials expressed concerns that a ban would be difficult to enforce, would impinge on individual liberties, and could be leading toward a slippery slope of future regulations.
In fact, officials had a hard time selling the proposal to various communities, particularly in the southern areas of the county. But they said such bans on smoking and other tobacco products are becoming the norm in California. San Luis Obispo has a similar ban, and it was the first city to ban smoking in public buildings.
Mecham and Teixeira said they worried about the far reach of the proposed regulation, but they were outnumbered by public health arguments from their colleagues.
“Part of the job of public policy is to protect people from health threats and safety threats,” Hill said, adding that he was disappointed with fallacious slippery slope arguments and people who “just want rights and liberties but they don’t want duties and responsibilities.”
Supervisors briefly toyed with an idea to ban all tobacco products, but ultimately settled on just smoking.
There will be exemptions, however. County officials asked to allow designated smoking areas at the county Psychiatric Health Facility and County Regional Airport. Additionally, the county runs some state-owned parks and golf courses that fall under state law, and therefore are exempt from smoking bans. The county health director will have the authority to grant other exemptions.
The ban is intended to be self-enforcing.