Since 1964, approximately 2.5 million nonsmokers have died from health problems caused by exposure to secondhand smoke, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Second-hand smoke can cause a litany of effects in children, from ear infections to asthma attacks. With roughly 34.3 million smokers out there, despite years of public health outreach encouraging them to quit the habit (or never pick it up to begin with), there’s some urgency to protect nonsmokers from second-hand smoke.
With that in mind, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors last August unanimously passed a smoking ban at all county buildings and parks, save for a few exceptions. On Tuesday, June 25, they expanded that ban to include electronic cigarettes and all forms of smoking cannabis. The expanded ban takes effect July 26.
“It was time for Monterey County to lead on making our parks healthier and smoke-free for the most part,” County Supervisor Luis Alejo says. (Last year, Alejo asked that the board consider the ban.)
Now smoking is banned in all county buildings, parks and vehicles save for some campgrounds and live-in worker housing that are exempt. In county parks and campgrounds there will be marked designated smoking areas, and permitted events with 5,000 people or more may apply to created their own DSAs.
For example, it would be illegal to smoke anywhere at Lake Nacimiento, unless you are in a marked designated smoking area or the ranger invites you into his house for a toke. Doesn’t matter if it’s a vape, pipe or cigarette, it’s all the same. And the county left out nothing in the verbiage, going as far as to mention hookahs and cigarillos.
The fine for a violation is $100 the first time and up to $500 after that. However, Alejo notes, “it’s modeled after self-enforcement [policies] used in other counties and has largely worked.” This means for the vast majority of the time, the county is relying on smokers to obey no-smoking signs.
The plans will be rolled out in the coming weeks with public notification and signage going into place to mark DSAs and non-smoking areas clearly. The ban also gives parks officials the opportunity to ban smoking in the case of serious fire risk.
“We want our parks to be places that people of all ages can enjoy without worrying about smoke in the air they breathe,” Alejo says.