City needs to educate smokers about ban

Following my recent return from a trip to Dublin you may recall my complimentary letter on the apparent effectiveness of the new smoking ban. I’m sorry, but that compliment appears to have been premature. On our first walk of Heisler Park and Main Beach we did not experience a single smoker; the walk was such a pleasure. But that pleasure was very short-lived. On every walk since we have encountered at least one or two people openly smoking. On each occasion I gently reminded them that Laguna is a no-smoking city. A few outwardly appeared to appreciate the reminder and actually put out their cancer-sticks. But the rest of the encounters have met with great resistance and complete disrespect. Today I suffered the latest pair of incidents, which prompted my letter.

At the first encounter a youngish man appearing about the age of 35 was openly smoking in a crowed area on the sidewalk near Greeters Restaurant, exposing all nearby to his second-hand smoke. I reminded him that Laguna is a non-smoking city. His reply was short but not sweet, “Yes, don’t you smoke,” as his group of men continued on their path, completely ignoring me. 

The second encounter was the last straw for me. I noticed a 50ish looking man puffing away as I walked the sidewalk through Heisler Park. I gently reminded him that Laguna is a no-smoking city. His reply was “Oh yeah? Guess you better call 911” as he put the cigarette back in his mouth and took another hit. I would have called, too, except I had left my phone at home.

My question to you is “When are we going to start educating the public about our expectations?” The only signs I am aware of stating the official policy are located at the entrances to the city. What about after these belligerent smokers are here?  We have signs informing visitors about lots of other infractions, even on lifeguard stations, but still nothing about smoking. Months ago Police Chief Farinella contacted me to advise me that a major education campaign was coming soon, including coasters and brochures. I am not impressed with the lack of visibility of your educational campaign to date. The ash tray/trash receptacle at the top of Heisler stairs behind the Inn at Laguna has not even been replaced. Is that really sending the right message?

What we really need are signs in our parks and on lifeguard towers at our beaches. May I also suggest stickers on all parking-meters. Obviously a single reminder as one is driving into our town (which may not even be seen) is not adequate; educational efforts must be stepped up.

I was very pleased when the city council voted to provide Laguna residents a healthier life. I am just wondering if I will live long enough to enjoy the cleaner air I was promised.

Russ Hill

Laguna Beach

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