The city of Irvine is proposing to ban the smoking of products in public places, making it the third city in Orange County to implement a blanket ban.
California also recently passed law banning smoking and vaping in state parks and beaches. In Orange County, only two other cities – Laguna Beach and Dana Point – go beyond the Irvine ban by banning smoking in all public places.
Irvine’s expanded restrictions – the first in more than a dozen years – would ban residents almost everywhere except their private home by adding streets, parking lots, common areas, shops, and bike paths as non-smoking areas.
The ordinance was brought into being through a joint motion by City Councilor Farrah Khan and Mayor Pro Tempore Anthony Kuo.
“When I sat with the city attorney, we saw that the current regulation lacks the substance that is needed today, especially with much of the news about smoking, and all of the data we now have on secondhand smoke is enormous,” said Khan , who was elected to the city council in 2018.
There were approximately 1,500 cases of lung injury and 33 deaths from e-cigarette use as of October 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This prompted the FDA to issue a public warning against the use of vapor products that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is a psychoactive component of marijuana.
The ordinance was originally due to be discussed on October 10, but has been postponed until tomorrow’s city council meeting after members of the Chamber of Commerce raised concerns about the specific wording of the bill, Kuo said.
Kuo said the concerns relate to what is considered public and private property in the regulation and where the guidelines are enforced.
The new policy would require all locations covered by the city’s new policy to post non-smoking signs at the main entrances. All companies should have the signs and could be checked for them.
However, according to Khan, the smoking ban should not be enforced by police officers.
“This ordinance is not intended for (the police) to go out and cops, we really hope that people regulate themselves when it comes to smoking,” said Khan. “We imposed fines … but the goal is not to have the police look out for people, but to educate the community.”
The October 22 session will be the first reading of the bill, but Khan said it could be passed as early as late November.
In 2019, the city of Irvine received an “F” rating from the American Lung Association, according to the council staff report.
The city’s smoking regulations were last updated in 2007 and do not currently include regulations for vaping and e-cigarettes. Public areas like parks and other areas are the only non-smoking areas, according to Khan.
“It doesn’t include our sidewalks, it doesn’t include common areas in condominiums and apartments and the like,” Khan said. “With this new regulation we are basically covering all public areas, but still giving private owners the option to smoke in their private homes and facilities.”
“Some people were concerned that we would take away the right to smoke,” said Khan. “It’s not about exercising their rights, it’s about making sure they are accountable for them. We want to make sure that we create a healthy environment. “
Other cities like Dana Point and Santa Ana received “C” ratings for their current tobacco restrictions, which Irvine would be on if the proposal is accepted.
The new restrictions proposed by Khan and Kuo are also intended to protect city dwellers from secondhand smoke, according to the staff’s report.
“We are a city that is focused on maintaining our quality of life, and one of the components of that is clean air,” said Khan. “For us, as one of the largest cities in Orange County, it was important for me to move forward and do something for the benefit of our residents and those who come to our city.”